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CHAPTER ONE

There were three of them - Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen. Jerry's name was Gerald, and Jimmy's name was James; and Kathleen was never called by her name at all, but Cathy, or Puss Cat, when her brothers were pleased with her, and Scratch Cat when they were not pleased. And they were at school in a little town in the West of England - the boys at one school, and the girl at another. They saw each other on Saturdays and Sundays at the house of a kind lady; but it was one of those important houses where it is impossible to play. So they looked forward to the holidays, when they would all go home. Then they could be together all day long and play in the house and explore the Hampshire forests and fields. Their Cousin Betty was expected there too. Betty got to the Hampshire home first, and the moment she got there she began to have measles, so that the three children couldn't go home at all. You may imagine their feelings. It was absolutely impossible to spend seven weeks at Miss Hervey's house, so all three wrote home and said so. This surprised their parents very much, because they had always thought the children liked to go to dear Miss Hervey's house. However, they were 'jolly decent about it', as Jerry said, and let the boys go and stay at Kathleen's school, where there was no one except the French teacher. 'We must have some sort of play during the holidays,' said Kathleen, when she had unpacked and arranged the boys' clothes in the drawers, feeling very grown-up. 'Let's write a book about what schools really are like. People would read it and say how clever we were.' 'More likely expel us,' said Gerald. 'No; we'll have an out-of-doors game. We could get a cave and keep stores in it.' 'There aren't any caves,' said Jimmy. 'And, besides, Mademoiselle won't let us go out alone.' 'Don't worry,' said Gerald. 'I'll go and talk to her.' It was a thin and interesting-looking boy that knocked at the door of the room where the French teacher sat reading a book. Gerald could always make himself look interesting when he met new grown-ups. It was done by opening his grey eyes rather wide, and having a nice expression. 'I hope I am not disturbing you,' said Gerald, when he came in. 'Bat no,' she said. 'What is it that you want?' 'I decided to come and say how do you do,' said Gerald, because you are the lady of the house.' 'You are a very polite little boy, she said. 'Not at all,' said Gerald, more polite than ever. 'I am so sorry for you, because you'll have to look after us in the holidays.' 'But not at all,' said Mademoiselle in her turn. 'I am sure you will be very good children.' 'We'll try,' he said honestly. 'We don't want to give you any trouble at all. And I was thinking it would be less trouble for you if we could go out into the woods tomorrow and take our dinner with us - something cold, you know.'


Mademoiselle laughed and Gerald laughed too. 'Little deceiver!' she said. 'Why not say at once you want to be free of overwatching?' 'You have to be careful with grown-ups,' said Gerald. 'Your parents, they permit these days at woods?' 'Oh, yes,' said Gerald truthfully. 'Then I will not be more a dragon than the parents.' 'Thank you!' said Gerald. 'Is there anything we can do for you - wind your wool, or find your spectacles, or -?' 'He thinks me a grandmother!' said Mademoiselle, laughing more than ever. 'Well, what luck?' the others asked. 'It's all right,' said Gerald. 'I told you it would be.' 'I don't believe you. She's too stern,' said Kathleen. 'Ah!' said Gerald, 'that's only because you don't know how to manage her. She wasn't stern with me.' Next morning the children went to explore the woods. 'But are there any woods?' asked Kathleen as they passed the market-place. 'It doesn't much matter about woods,' said Gerald dreamily, 'I'm sure we'll find something. One of the boys told me his father said when he was a boy there was a little cave near the Salisbury Road; but he said there was an enchanted castle there too, so perhaps the cave isn't true either.' Finally they came to a place where the road, as Gerald said, went two ways at once. 'That looks like adventures,' said Kathleen; and they turned to the right, then turned to the left, 'So as to be quite fair,' Jimmy said, and then to the right again and to the left again, and so on, till they were completely lost. 'Completely,' said Kathleen; 'how interesting!' The adventurers decided to sit down and have something to eat. And as they sat and rested, Gerald leaned back against the bushes and almost fell over backward. He stood up and said. 'I couldn't feel anything but air, it's a hole there.' The other two pulled back the bushes. There certainly was a hole in the bank. 'I'm going in,' said Gerald. He put his knee on a stone and disappeared. 'You all right?' asked Jimmy. 'Yes; come on.' He helped Kathleen and Jimmy to get in.


'It is a cave,' said Kathleen. They could see that they were in a dark stone cave three or four yards long, which turned then sharply to the right. The adventurers turned the corner and saw a round arch. They passed through the arch into a deep, narrow passage whose banks were of stones. On the top of the banks grew trees, and the sunlight came through their branches, turning the passage to a corridor of gold-green. At the end of it was another found arch, quite dark inside, above which rose rocks and grass and bushes. 'It's like a railway tunnel,' said James. 'It's the entrance to the enchanted castle,' said Kathleen. At the dark arch they stopped. 'There are steps down,' said Jimmy. Very slowly and carefully they went down the steps. Gerald struck a match and they saw a passage, turning to the left. They went on, following their leader. The passage was very dark. 'I don't like it!' whispered Jimmy. Then the children saw daylight that grew and grew. The passage finally ended in another arch. They passed through the arch and came to a marble terrace, which was white in the sunlight. It was a fantastic view like a picture out of a book about Italy. Immediately below them was a lake with swans and an island; beyond it were green slopes covered with trees, and amid the trees they saw white statues. To the left there was a round white building with pillars, and to the right - a waterfall. Away across the grassy slopes they saw deer. 'It is an enchanted castle,' said Kathleen. 'I don't see any castle,' said Jimmy. 'What do you call that, then?' Gerald pointed to white towers beyond the trees. 'It is an enchanted castle,' said Gerald. 'But there aren't any.' Jimmy was quite positive. 'How do you know? Do you think there's nothing in the world but what you've seen?' 'I think magic went out when people began to have steam- engines,' Jimmy insisted, 'and newspapers, and telephones.' 'Perhaps there's no magic because people don't believe in it any more,' said Kathleen. 'Well, don't let's spoil the show with any silly old not believing,' said Gerald with decision. 'I'm going to believe in magic as hard as I can. This is an enchanted garden, and that's an enchanted castle, and I'm going to explore them.' There never was such a garden out of a picture or a fairy-tale. They passed quite close by the deer, who only raised their pretty heads to look, and were not afraid at all. Then they came into a


rose-garden, red and pink and green and white in the sun, like a giant's many-coloured handkerchief. The feeling of magic got thicker and thicker, till they were almost afraid of the sound of their feet in the great silent place. Beyond the rose garden was a hedge with an arch cut in it, and it was the beginning of a maze. It was impossible to get to the middle of the maze. Again and again they found themselves at the arch. It was when they found themselves there for the fourth time that Jimmy suddenly cried, 'Oh, where's the dinner?' And then in silence they all remembered that the basket with the dinner had been left at the entrance of the cave. 'Let's go back,' said Jimmy, 'now this minute, and get our things and have our dinner.' 'Let's have one more try at the maze. I hate giving things up,' said Gerald. 'What's that?' 'That' was a red cotton thread. Gerald picked it up. One end of it was tied to a thimble with holes in it, and the other 'There is no other end,' said Gerald, with firm triumph. 'It's a clue - that's what it is. I've always felt something magic would happen some day, and now it has.' 'I think the gardener put it there,' said Jimmy. 'With a Princess's silver thimble on it? Look! There's a crown on the thimble.' There was. 'Come,' said Gerald, 'if you are adventurers be adven-turers.' He walked forward, winding the red thread round his fingers as he went. The red clue led them to the middle of the maze. There was a sun-dial there, and all round against the hedge a low, wide marble seat. The red clue ended in a small brown hand with rings on every finger. The hand belonged to a lady who lay on the stone seat asleep in the sun. She was wearing a wonderful rosy-gold silk dress; a thin white veil with silver stars covered the face. 'It's the enchanted Princess,' said Gerald, now really impressed. 'I told you so.' 'It's the Sleeping Beauty,' said Kathleen, 'it is - look how old-fashioned her clothes are. She has slept for a hundred years. Oh, Gerald, you're the eldest; you must be the Prince, and we never knew it.' She very gently lifted the edge of the veil and turned it back. The Princess's face was small and white. It was surrounded by long black hair. Her nose was straight; there were a few freckles on cheekbones and nose. 'No wonder,' whispered Kathleen, 'sleeping all these years in all this sun! But she is lovely!' 'Not so dusty,' said Gerald. 'Now, Jerry,' said Kathleen firmly, 'You've got to kiss and wake the Princess.' 'Not me!' declared Gerald. 'She'd go for me the minute she woke up.' 'I can kiss her,' said Jimmy. 'I'm not a coward, like Some People.'


And before Gerald could say a word Jimmy loudly kissed the Princess on her pale cheek, and now the three stood breathless, waiting for the result. And the result was that the Princess opened large, dark eyes, stretched out her arms, yawned a little, covering her mouth with a small brown hand, and said: 'Then the hundred years are over? Which of you is my Prince that woke me from my deep sleep?' 'I did,' said Jimmy fearlessly, for she did not look as though she were going to slap anyone. 'But you aren't really a Princess, are you?' 'Of course I am,' she answered. 'Look at my crown!' She pulled aside the veil, and showed beneath it a crown decorated with diamonds. 'How did you get past the dragons?' asked the Princess. Gerald ignored the question. 'I say,' he said, 'do you really believe in magic, and all that?' 'I ought to, if anybody does,' she said and showed a little scar on her wrist from the spindle. 'Then this really is an enchanted castle?' 'Of course it is,' said the Princess. 'How stupid you are!' She stood up. 'Let's go back to the castle,' she said, 'and I'll show you all my lovely jewels and things. Wouldn't you like that?' 'Yes,' said Gerald with hesitation. 'But-' 'But what?' The Princess's tone was impatient. 'But we're most awfully hungry.' 'Oh, so am I!' cried the Princess. 'I haven't had anything to eat for a hundred years. Come along to the castle.' 'The mice have eaten everything,' said Jimmy sadly. He saw now that she really was a Princess. 'Not they,' cried the Princess. 'You forget everything's enchanted here. Time simply stood still for a hundred years.


CHAPTER TWO

When the procession entered the castle the Princess turned to her guests. 'You just wait here a minute,' she said, 'and don't talk while I'm away. This castle is full of magic, and I don't know what will happen if you talk.' And with that she ran out, as Jimmy said afterwards, 'most unprincesslike,' showing as she ran black stockings and black shoes. Soon she returned with a tray, which held some bread and cheese and a jug of water. 'Come along,' said the Princess hospitably. 'I couldn't find anything but bread and cheese - but it doesn't matter, because everything's magic here, and unless you have some awful secret fault the bread and cheese will turn into anything you like. What would you like?' she asked Kathleen. 'Roast chicken,' said Kathleen, without hesitation. The Princess cut a slice of bread and laid it on a dish. 'Green peas?' asked the Princess, cut a piece of cheese and laid it beside the bread. Kathleen began to eat the bread, cutting it up with knife and fork as you would eat chicken. She didn't see any chicken and peas, or anything but cheese and dry bread. 'If I have an awful secret, it is a secret, even from me,' she told herself. The others asked for roast beef and cabbage and got it, she supposed, though to her it only looked like dry bread and Dutch cheese. For herself the Princess chose a piece of roast peacock. 'It's a game, isn't it?' asked Jimmy suddenly. 'What's a game?' asked the Princess, frowning. 'Pretending it's beef - the bread and cheese, I mean.' 'A game? But it is beef. Look at it,' said the Princess, opening her eyes very wide. 'Yes, of course,' said Jimmy. 'I was only joking.' Bread and cheese is not perhaps so good as roast beef or chicken or peacock, but bread and cheese is, at any rate, very much better than nothing at all. Everyone ate and drank and felt much better. 'Now,' said the Princess, 'you can come and see my treasures.' She got up and they, followed her down the long hall to the great stone stairs. Under the stairs behind a heavy curtain there was a little door.


'This is the door leading to my private apartments,' said the Princess. She opened the door, and they went straight on - in the dark. Soon they reached another door. The Princess took the key from the outside of the door, put it in the keyhole, and turned it. The room they were in was small and high. Its ceiling was deep blue with gold stars. The walls were of wood, panelled, and there was no furniture in it at all. 'This,' said the Princess, 'is my treasure chamber.' 'But where,' asked Kathleen politely, 'are the treasures?' 'Don't you see them?' asked the Princess. 'No, we don't,' said Jimmy. 'You don't come that bread- and-cheese game with me - not again!' 'If you really don't see them,' said the Princess, 'I sup-pose I shall have to say the charm. Close your eyes, please. And give me your word of honour you won't look till I tell you, and that you'll never tell anyone what you've seen.' The children gave their words of honour rather reluctant-ly and closed their eyes. 'Wiggadil yougadoo begadee leegadeeve nowgadow?' said the Princess rapidly. Then they heard a creaking noise. 'She's locking us in!' cried Jimmy. 'Your word of honour,' whispered Gerald. 'You may look,' said the voice of the Princess. And they looked. The room was not the same room, yet - yes, the blue ceiling was there, but now the walls sparkled with white and blue and red and green and gold and silver. There were shelves around the room, and on them were gold cups and silver dishes, and ornaments of gold and silver, tiaras of diamonds, necklaces of rubies, emeralds and pearls. The three children remained breathless, open-mouthed, looking at the sparkling treasures all about them, while the Princess stood with a proud smile on her lips. 'Can I do magic, or can't I?' she asked triumphantly. 'You can; oh, you can!' said Kathleen. 'May we - may we touch' asked Gerald. 'All that's mine is yours,' said the Princess, and added quickly, 'Only, of course, you mustn't take anything away with you.' 'We're not thieved' said Jimmy. The others were already turning over the wonderful things on the shelves.


'Perhaps not,' said the Princess, 'but you're a very unbe-lieving little boy. I say, let's all dress up and you be princes and princesses too.' The children decorated themselves with diadems, neck-laces, and rings. Kathleen stood quite still with a diamond bracelet raised in her hand. 'I say,' she said. 'The King and Queen?' 'What King and Queen?' asked the Princess. 'Your father and mother,' said Kathleen. 'Won't they be wanting to see you, after a hundred years, you know?' 'Oh - ah - yes,' said the Princess slowly. 'I embraced my parents when I got the bread and cheese. They're having their dinner.' 'Look here,' said Gerald, 'if you're sure your father and mother don't expect you, let's go out and have a good game of something - unless you can do any more magic tricks' 'You forget,' said the Princess, 'I'm grown up. I don't play games. And I don't like to do too much magic at a time, it's so tiring. Besides, we must put all these things back in their proper places.' As Kathleen was putting the last shining ornament into its proper place, she saw more rings and brooches and chains and other things, and all were of ordinary metal. 'What's all this rubbish?' she asked. 'Rubbish, indeed!' said the Princess. 'Why those are all magic things! This bracelet - anyone who wears it has got to speak the truth. This chain makes you as strong as ten men.' 'What does this brooch do?' asked Kathleen, reaching out her hand. The princess caught her by the wrist. 'You mustn't touch,' she said; 'if anyone but me touches them all the magic goes out at once and never comes back. That brooch will give you any wish you like.' 'And this ring?' Jimmy pointed. 'Oh, that makes you invisible.' 'I say,' said Gerald, excited. 'Could you show us how some of the things act? Couldn't you give us each a wish?' 'No,' said the Princess suddenly, 'It can't give wishes to you, it only gives me wishes. But I'll let you see the ring make me invisible. Only you must close your eyes while I do it.' They closed them. 'Count fifty,' said the Princess, 'and then you may look. And then you must close them again, and count fifty, and I'll reappear.'


Gerald counted, aloud. Through the counting they could hear a creaking sound. 'Forty-nine, fifty!' said Gerald, and they opened their eyes. They were alone in the room. The jewels had disappeared and so had the Princess. 'That is magic,' said Kathleen breathlessly. Gerald began counting again. He and Kathleen had both closed their eyes. But somehow Jimmy hadn't. He didn't mean to cheat, he just forgot. And as Gerald's count reached twenty he saw a panel under the window open slowly. 'I knew it was a trick!' he said to himself and at once closed his eyes, like an honourable little boy. On the word 'fifty' six eyes opened. And the panel was closed and there was no Princess. 'I believe there's a cupboard under the window,' said Jimmy, 'and she's hidden in it. Secret panel, you know.' 'You looked! That's cheating,' said the voice of the Princess so close to his ear that he quite jumped. 'I didn't cheat.' Though the children heard her voice still there was no Princess to be seen. 'Come back again. Princess dear,' said Kathleen. 'Shall we close our eyes and count again?' 'Don't be silly!' said the voice of the Princess. 'We're not silly,' said Jimmy. kYou know you're only hiding.' 'If you're hiding, as Jimmy says, you'd better come out. If you've really turned invisible, you'd better make yourself visible again,' said Gerald. 'Do you really mean,' asked a voice quite changed, 'that you can't see me?' 'No, I tell you,' said Jimmy. "You are really invisible. Look in the glass,' said Gerald. There was a silence, and then the children heard a cry of despair. 'Oh - oh - oh! I am invisible. What shall I do?' 'Take the ring off,' said Kathleen, suddenly practical. Another silence. 'I can't!' cried the Princess, it won't come off. But it can't be the ring. I was only playing at magic. I just hid in the secret cupboard - it was only a game. Oh, whatever shall I do?'


'A game?' said Gerald slowly; 'but you can do magic - the invisible jewels, and you made them come visible.' Oh, it's only a secret spring and the panelling slides up. Oh, what shall I do!' 'Don't cry, dear,' said Kathleen; 'let me go and tell the King and Queen.' 'The-' 'Your royal father and mother.' 'Oh, don't mock me!' said the poor Princess. 'You know that was only a game, too, like -' 'Like the bread and cheese,' said Jimmy triumphantly. 'I knew that was!' 'But your dress and being asleep in the maze, and -' 'Oh, I dressed up for fun, because everyone's away at the fair, and I put the clue just to make it all more real. I was playing at the Sleeping Beauty first, and then I heard you talking in the maze, and I thought what fun; and now I'm invisible, and I don't know what to do. 'But if you're not the Princess, who are you?' asked Kathleen. 'I'm - my aunt lives here,' said the invisible Princess. 'She may be home any time. Oh, what shall I do?' 'Perhaps she knows some charm -' 'Oh, nonsense!' said the voice sharply; 'she doesn't be-lieve in charms. She would be so cross. 'Let's go out into the garden, near the lake, where it's cool, and we can discuss it,' Gerald said kindly. 'You'll like that, won't you?' 'Let's go down to the Temple of Flora, by the lake,' said the voice. The three children and the invisible Princess went down to the white marble Temple of Flora that stood close against the side of the little hill, and sat down inside it. It was cool and quiet there. 'Well,' said Gerald, 'first of all, what's your name, and if you're not a Princess, who are you?' 'I'm - I'm,' said a crying voice, 'I'm the housekeeper's - niece - at - the - castle - and my name's Mabel Prowse.' 'That's exactly what I thought,' said Jimmy, without a shadow of truth, because how could he? The others were silent, because they didn't know what to think of it. 'Well, anyhow,' said Gerald, 'you live here.' 'Yes,' said the voice. 'Oh yes, I live here right enough, but what's the use of living anywhere if you're invisible?'


CHAPTER THREE

'You'll have to tell your aunt,' said Kathleen kindly. 'No, no, no!' moaned Mabel invisibly; 'take me with you. I don't think that my aunt likes me very much. I'll leave her a note to say I've run away to sea.' 'Girls don't run away to sea,' 'Well, what shall I do?' 'Really,' said Gerald, 'I don't know what the girl can do. Let her come home with us and have -' 'Tea - oh, yes,' said Jimmy, jumping up. 'And have a good discussion,' 'After tea,' said Jimmy. 'But the aunt will think something's happened to her.' 'So it has.' 'And she'll tell the police, and they'll look everywhere for me.' 'They'll never find you,' said Gerald. 'I'm sure,' said Mabel, 'aunt would rather never see me again than see me like this. It might kill her. I'll write to her, and we'll put it in the big letter-box at the gate as we go out. Has anyone got a pencil and paper?' Gerald tore a page out of the note-book and gave Mabel a small pencil. The pencil began writing, forming round, clear letters on the page. This is what it wrote: 'Dear Aunt, I am afraid you will not see me again for some time. A lady in a car has adopted me, and we are going straight to the coast and then in a ship. It is useless to try to follow me. Good-bye. I hope you enjoyed the fair. Mabel.' 'But that's all lies,' said Jimmy. 'No, it isn't; it's fancysaid Mabel. 'If I said I've become invisible, she'd think that was a lie, anyhow.' Mabel led the children by another and very much nearer way out of the park. As they got back to school, the first drops of rain fell. Mademoiselle came herself to open the door.


'You are late!' she cried. 'All goes well?' 'We are very sorry,' said Gerald. 'It took us longer to get home than we expected.' The children sat down to supper. There were only three plates, but Jimmy let Mabel have his. It was strange to see the bread and butter flying about in the air, and bite after bite disappearing; and the spoon rising with baked apple in it and returning to the plate empty. Everyone was very hungry, and asked for more bread and butter. Cook grumbled when the plate was filled for the third time. 'It'll be difficult to give Mabel any breakfast,' said Gerald; 'Mademoiselle will be here then. She'd have a fit if she saw bits of bacon fly in the air and disappear.' 'We shall have to buy things for Mabel to eat in secret,' said Kathleen. 'Our money won't last long,' said Jimmy. 'Have you got any money?' 'I've not got much money,' was Mabel's reply, 'but I've got a lot of ideas.' 'We will talk about everything in the morning,' said Kathleen. 'We must just say good night to Mademoiselle, and then you shall sleep in my bed, Mabel. I'll give you one of my nightgowns.' It was extremely strange, Kathleen thought, to see the Princess's clothes coming out of nothing. First the veil appeared hanging in the air. Then the sparkling crown suddenly showed on the table. Then a sleeve of the pinky dress showed, then another, and then the whole dress lay on the floor. Each piece of clothes became visible as Mabel took it off. The nightgown, lifted from the bed, disappeared a bit at a time. Kathleen was just getting sleepy when she remembered that the maid who would come in the morning would see those wonderful Princess clothes. 'I'll have to get up and hide them,' she said. And as she lay thinking about it she fell asleep, and when she woke again it was bright morning, and Eliza was standing in front of the chair where Mabel's clothes lay, looking at the pink dress. 'Oh, don't touch, please!' cried Kathleen. 'Where did you get that?' 'We're going to use it for acting,' invented Kathleen. 'It s given me for that.' Here a bell rang and Eliza had to go, because it was the postman, and she particularly wanted to see him. 'And now,' said Kathleen, pulling on her first stocking, 'we shall have to do the acting. Everything seems very difficult.' "Acting isn't,' said Mabel; and a stocking disappeared in the air. 'I shall love it.' 'You forget,' said Kathleen, 'invisible actresses can't take part in plays unless they're magic


ones.' 'Oh,' cried a voice, 'I've got such an idea!' 'Tell it us after breakfast,' said Kathleen. She brought Mabel a piece of bread taken by Gerald from the pantry. Mabel ate the bread and drank water from the tooth- mug. 'I'm afraid it tastes of cherry tooth-paste,' said Kathleen apologetically. 'It doesn't matter,' replied Mabel; 'it's more interesting than water. I think red wine in ballads was rather like this.' 'We're going to tell your aunt where you really are,' said Kathleen. 'She won't believe you. I expect you'll be sorry for it,' said Mabel; 'but come on and, I say, do be careful not to shut me in the door as you go out. You nearly did just now.' Mabel's aunt was reading a pink novel at the window of the housekeeper's room. 'Excuse me,' said Gerald, 'but I believe you've lost your niece?' 'Not lost, my boy,' said the aunt, who was thin and tall. 'We could tell you something about her,' said Gerald. 'No complaints, please,' replied the aunt. 'My niece has gone. If she's played any tricks on you it's only her light-hearted way. Go away, children, I'm busy.' 'Did you get her note?' asked Kathleen. The aunt showed more interest than before, but she still kept her finger in the novel. 'Oh,' she said, 'so you saw her leave? Did she seem glad to go?' 'Quite,' said Gerald truthfully. 'These romantic adventures do occur in our family,' said the aunt. 'Lord Yalding selected me out of eleven candidates for the post of housekeeper here. I have no doubt the child was changed at birth and her rich relatives have found her.' 'Your Mabel's invisible,' said Jimmy. 'She's just beside me now.' 'I hate lies,' said the aunt, 'in all its forms. Will you kindly take that little boy away? I am quite satisfied about Mabel.' 'But what will Mabel's father and mother say?' asked Gerald. 'Mabel's father and mother are dead,' said the aunt calmly. 'All right,' he said, 'we'll leave. But don't say we didn't tell you the truth, that's all.'


'You have told me nothing,' said the aunt, 'none of you, except that little boy, who has told me a silly lie. Good-bye.' And on this they got away quickly. 'Why,' said Gerald, when they were outside the little court, 'your aunt's mad. She doesn't care what becomes of you and believes that nonsense about the lady in a car!' 'I knew she'd believe it when I wrote it,' said Mabel. 'She's not mad, only she's always reading novels. Now I'll tell you my great idea. I'm not ungrateful, but I'm rather hungry. And you can't always take things for me from the pantry. If you like, I'll go back and live in the castle together with the ghosts. I am a sort of ghost now, you know.' 'Oh no,' said Kathleen kindly; 'you must stay with us.' 'If you could get the ring off, you could go back,' said Jimmy. 'Yes, but I can't. I tried again last night and again this morning,' said Mabel's voice. 'What I mean to say - now that I am invisible we can have adventures.' ' "Adventures," said the brave pirate, "are not always profitable." ' It was Gerald who said this. 'This one will be. Look here, if Jerry could make himself look common, he could go to the fair and do conjuring.' 'He doesn't know any,' said Kathleen. 'I should do it really,' said Mabel, 'but Jerry could look like doing it. Move things without touching them and all that. Only you mustn't all go. People may wonder what children are doing all alone by themselves.' 'Don't show that you know me,' said Gerald, 'try to look as if you came to the fair with grownups. If you don't, some kind policemen will take the little lost children by the hand and lead them home to parents - the French teacher, I mean.' 'Let's go now,' said the voice. So they went. The fair was held about half a mile from the castle gates. When they got near enough Gerald went ahead to get something to eat. He brought some nuts, red apples, small yellow pears, sweets and two bottles of ginger-beer. They ate and drank. The boys were never tired of seeing Mabel eat, or rather of seeing the strange, magic-looking disappearance of food which was all that showed of Mabel's eating. 'I'm sure it will knock them!' said Gerald, again and again. It did. Jimmy and Kathleen were the first to go to the fair. Soon they saw a strange figure with its hands in its pockets. It was Gerald, but at first they hardly recognized him. He had taken off his tie, and round his head, like a turban, was the red school-scarf. And his face and hands were bright black!


Everyone turned to look at him. Gerald went up close to a long-faced woman who was sitting at the door of a small tent. 'I'm a conjurer, from India,' said Gerald. 'Not you!' said the woman; 'the backs of your ears are ail white.' "Are they?' said Gerald. 'How clever of you to see that!' He rubbed them with his hands. 'That better?' 'That's all right. What do you do?' 'Conjuring,' said Gerald. 'Look here, if you help me with the show I'll go shares. 'Let's first see how you do conjuring, since you're so clever.' 'Right you are,' said Gerald firmly. 'You see this apple? Well, I'll make it move slowly through the air, and then when I say "Go!" it'll disappear.' 'Yes - into your mouth! Get away with your nonsense.' He held out one of the little apples, and the woman saw it move slowly along the air. 'Now - go' cried Gerald, to the apple, and it went. 'How's that?' he asked, in tones of triumph. The woman was excited. 'The best ever saw!' she whispered. 'I'm on, mate, if you know any more tricks like that.' 'A lot,' said Gerald. Then he asked: 'Will you give me your shawl?' She gave him a red and black shawl, and he spread it on the ground and seated himself cross-legged behind it. The woman got a drum from the inside of the tent and beat it. Quite soon a little crowd gathered. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Gerald, 'I come from India, and I can do tricks which you've never seen. When I see two shillings on the shawl I'll begin.' A few pennies fell on the shawl. 'Ninepence,' said Gerald. 'Well, I've got a generous na-ture. I don't wish to deceive you - I have an assistant, but my assistant is invisible.' The crowd laughed. 'Now,' said he, laying the nine pennies down on the shawl, 'you keep your eyes on those pennies, and one by one you'll see them disappear.' And of course they did. Then one by one they were laid down again by the invisible hand of Mabel. 'Bravo!' 'Show us another!' cried the people. 'Now,' said Gerald, 'you've seen what I can do, but I don't do any more till I see five shillings on this carpet.'


And in two minutes seven shillings lay there and Gerald did a little more conjuring. The news of the conjurer had spread all over the fair. More people came to look at him. The woman stood, looking more and more pleasant as she saw the money and beat her drum every time Gerald stopped conjuring. It was getting quite late, and Gerald, who was very tired and quite satisfied with his share of the money, was wondering how to get out of it. 'They'll never let us get away. I didn't think of that be-fore,' he whispered to Mabel. She thought and told him what to do. Gerald asked the woman to divide the money, which she did honestly enough. 'Now,' he said, 'I'll give you five shillings for your shawl.' 'Seven shillings,' said the woman mechanically. 'Righto' said Gerald, putting his heavy share of the money in his trouser pocket. 'This shawl will now disappear,' he said, picking it up. He gave it ta Mabel, who put it on; and, of course, it disappeared. The audience was impressed. 'Now,' he said, 'I come to the last trick of all. I shall take three steps backwards and disappear. He took three steps backwards, Mabel put the invisible shawl round him, and he did not disappear. The invisible shawl couldn't make him invisible. 'Yah!' cried a boy's voice in the crowd. 'Look at him! He knows he can't do it.' The crowd was crowding closer. At any moment they might touch Mabel, and then anything might happen - simply anything. 'Oh!' whispered Mabel suddenly, 'I can get it off.' 'Not 'Yes - the ring.' 'Come on, young master. Give us something for our money,' a farmer shouted. 'I will,' said Gerald. 'This time I really will disappear. Go into the tent,' he whispered to Mabel. 'Push the ring under the canvas. Then go away and join the others. When I see you with them I'll disappear. Go slow, and I'll catch you up' 'It's me,' said a pale and real Mabel in the ear of Kath-leen. 'He's got the ring; come on, before the crowd begins to shout.' As they went out of the gate they heard the shouting of surprise, and knew that this time Gerald really disappeared. Later they heard footsteps on the road, and next moment Gerald's voice spoke.


'Hello!' it said gloomily. 'You made me jump! Take my ring off!' 'It's not yours any more than ours, anyhow,' said Jimmy. 'Yes, it is,' said Mabel. 'Oh, stop it!' said the tired voice of Gerald beside her. 'You can't have the ring. I can't get it off.'


CHAPTER FOUR

The difficulty was not only that Gerald was invisible now, but that Mabel who was no more invisible couldn't get into the house. 'I can't go back to aunt. I can't and I won't,' said Mabel firmly. 'But what shall we say to Mademoiselle about you -!' said Gerald. 'You could tell the truth,' said Mabel. 'She wouldn't believe it,' said Cathy. 'No,' said Gerald's voice, 'we can't tell her. But she's really nice. Let's ask her to let you stay the night because it's too late for you to get home.' 'That's all right,' said Jimmy, 'but what about you?' 'I shall go to bed,' said Gerald, 'with a headache. Oh, that's not a lie! I've got one right enough.' 'I'd do something different from going to bed with a silly headache,' said Jimmy unkindly. 'What would you do?' asked the voice of Gerald. 'I'd be a burglar,' said Jimmy. Cathy and Mabel reminded him how wrong it was, and Jimmy replied: 'Well, then - a detective.' 'It's exactly what I am going to do,' said Gerald. 'We'll go to the police-station and see what they've got in the way of crimes. They did, and read the notices on the board outside. Two dogs had been lost and a purse. Also someone had stolen many silver plates. Twenty pounds reward offered for any information that may lead to the recovery of the missing property. 'I'll detect that,' said Gerald; 'Here comes Johnson,' he added; 'Ask him about it, Jimmy,' 'Hello, Johnson!' he said. And Johnson replied: 'Hello. What are you doing here this time of night?' the constable asked. 'You should be at home now.' 'We've been to the fair,' said Kathleen. 'There was an unusual conjurer there,' 'Heard about him,' said Johnson; 'all fake, you know.'


Such is fame. Gerald, standing in the shadow, jingled the money in his pocket. 'What's that?' the policeman asked quickly. 'Our money jingling,' said Jimmy, with perfect truth. 'It's well to have pockets full of money,' said Johnson remarked. 'Well, why haven't you?' asked Mabel. 'Why don't you get that twenty pounds reward?' 'I'll tell you why I don't. Because you can't arrest a per-son on suspicion, even if you know well who did the job." 'And who do you think did it?' asked Jimmy.' 'I don't think - I know. It's a man known to the police for many crimes he's done, but we never can get enough evidence against him.' 'Well,' said Jimmy, 'after school I'll come to you and be a detective. Just now I think we'd better go home and detect our supper. Good night!' When the policeman disappeared in the police-station, they heard Gerald's voice. 'You've no more brains than a halfpenny bun,' he said; 'no details about how and when the silver was taken.' 'But he told us he knew,' said Jimmy. 'Yes, that's all you've got out of him. Go home and de-tect your supper! It's all you can do.' 'What'll you do about supper?' Mabel asked. 'Buns!' said Gerald, 'halfpenny buns. I hope you can buy buns? I can't go into a shop in this state.' While Cathy and Jimmy were in the shop, Gerald spoke to Mabel about his plans of starting a detective career. 'The invisible detective may not only find out about the purse and the silver, but detect some crime that isn't even done yet. I can follow suspiciously-looking people and catch them red-handed.' 'Oh!' suddenly cried Mabel. 'Oh, how awful! I never thought of that before.' 'Never thought of wha,' asked Gerald. 'The window.' 'What window?' 'The panelled-room window. At the castle. We left it open, and all the jewels and things there. Aunt never goes in. I must go home now this minute.' When the others came out of the shop, the situation was explained to them.


'Aunt will be cross,' said Mabel sadly. 'As we left the key inside the door, she'll have to ask the gardeners to get a ladder and-' 'I can help you!' said Gerald. 'I'll climb in, close the window and get out.' 'Won't you be afraid?' Mabel asked. 'You can be caught?' 'No, I can't be,' answered Gerald. He expected the question about danger from Kathleen, but all Kathleen said was, 'Well, good-bye; we'll come and see you tomorrow, Mabel. The Temple of Flora at half-past ten.' 'Leave the pantry window open for me so I can get in when I've done my detecting,' said Gerald gloomily. Then he took the bag with the buns and caught Mabel's hand. 'Come on, Mabel.' Jimmy and Kathleen explained to Mademoiselle that Jerry had a headache and couldn't come to supper. After supper they went to bed. They didn't worry at all about their brother. It was the aunt herself who opened the door to a very pale Mabel. She made a step towards Mabel. 'You naughty, naughty girl!' she cried angrily; 'how could you do this to me? Oh, Mabel, thank Heaven you're safe!' And with that the aunt's arms went round Mabel and Mabel's round the aunt as if they had never met before. 'But you didn't seem to care about me this morning,' said Mabel. 'How do you know?' 'I was there listening. Don't be angry, auntie.' 'My dear,' said the aunt slowly, 'I've been in a sort of trance. I've always been fond of you, but I didn't want to spoil you. But yesterday quite suddenly I felt as if you didn't matter at all. I felt the same when I got your letter and when those children came. And today I suddenly woke up and realized that you were gone. It was awful. Oh, Mabel, why did you do it?' 'It was a joke,' said Mabel. And then the two went in and the door was shut. 'That's very strange,' said Gerald, outside; 'looks like more magic to me. There's more about this castle than meets the eye.' There certainly was. As Gerald was walking alone and invisible through the shadowy great garden to look for the open window of the panelled room he began to feel - well, not excited, not surprised, not worried, but different. He had an extraordinary feeling so difficult to describe, and yet so real and so unforgettable the feeling that he was in another world. The feeling was very wonderful; perhaps you will feel it some day. There are still some places in the world where it can be felt. Something white moved under a tree. A white figure came out, a creature with horns and goat's legs and the head and arms of a boy. And Gerald was not afraid. The white thing rolled on the grass and ran away across the lawn. Then Gerald saw the pedestal of a statue - empty.


'The statues come alive,' he said; and another white shape came out of the Temple of Flora and disappeared in the bushes. Then something enormously long and darkly grey came towards him, slowly, heavily. The moon came out just in time to show its shape. It was of those great dinosaurs, which lived millions of years ago when they were masters of the world, before Man was. 'It can't see me,' said Gerald. 'I am not afraid. It's come to life, too.' He touched the side of its gigantic tail. It was of stone. It turned, however, at the touch; but Gerald also had turned, and was running with all his speed towards the house. It was Fear that he ran from, and not the moving stone beast. He stood some time under the window, then he climbed into the room. Once inside the room, Gerald turned for another look. The statue stood calm on its pedestal. Everything was in its place now in the garden, nothing moved. 'How extraordinary!' said Gerald. 'I never thought I could go through a garden and dream like that.' He shut the window, turned the key, went out, locked the door again and went to the end of the passage. 'I wonder where the kitchen is,' said Gerald. He had quite forgotten that he was a detective. He wanted only to get home and tell the others about that unusual dream that he had had in the garden. He opened many doors, but he could not find the kitchen. At last he opened a door, and someone inside said something. Gerald stood back against the wall, as a man ran to look into the passage. 'All right,' said the man, with relief. 'The door opened, it's heavy - that's all.' 'I thought it was the police that time!' said another voice. They closed the door again. Gerald did not mind. He didn't like the look of those men. He felt that they were dangerous. And Gerald had seen what he wanted to see. By wonderful luck - beginner's luck - he had discovered a burglary on the very first night of his detective career. The men were taking silver out of two great boxes and packing it in sacks. Gerald turned and went away, very carefully and very quickly. What shall he do? He stopped and thought hard. Then he took a pencil and a note-book and wrote: 'You know the room where the silver is. Burglars are taking silver. Send a man for police. I will follow the burglars if they get away before police arrive 'He hesitated a moment, and ended – ' 'From a Friend- this is not a sell.' Then Gerald tied the letter round a stone and threw it into the room where Mabel and her aunt


were having supper. He saw the stone picked up, the letter read. 'Nonsense!' said the aunt. 'Oh! Please send for the police, like he says,' asked Mabel. 'Like who says?' said the aunt. 'Whoever it is,' Mabel moaned. 'It's true - I know it's true. Please wake Bates!' 'I don't believe a word of it,' said the aunt, but she asked Bates to go for the police. When the police arrived the door of the room was open, and the silver was gone. It was five in the morning when Gerald finally got into his bed, tired and cold. 'Master Gerald!' - it was Eliza's voice in his ears - 'it's seven o clock and another fine day, and there's been another burglary - Oh!' she screamed as she came up to his bed. Kathleen came running from her room; Jimmy sat up in his bed. 'What's up?' Kathleen cried. Eliza sat down heavily on a box as she spoke. "At first his bed was all empty and black and he was not in it, and when I looked again he was in it. I'll tell Mam'selle of you, with your tricks.' 'Look here,' said Gerald slowly; 'I'm going to tell you something. Can you keep a secret?' 'Yes,' said Eliza. 'Then keep it and I'll give you two shillings.' 'But what were you going to tell me?' 'That. About the two shillings and the secret. And you must keep your mouth shut.' 'I will,' said Eliza, holding out her hand. 'Oh, I'm so glad you're safe,' said Kathleen, when Eliza had gone. 'You didn't seem to care much last night,' said Gerald coldly. 'I can't think how I let you go. I didn't care last night. But I woke this morning and remembered!' 'How did you get visible?' Jimmy asked. 'It just happened when she called me - the ring came off.' 'Tell us all about everything,' said Kathleen. 'Not yet,' said Gerald mysteriously. 'Where's the ring?' Jimmy asked after breakfast, 'I want to have a try now.' 'I expect it's in the bed somewhere,' said Gerald. But it wasn't. Eliza had made the bed. 'There was no ring there,' she said. 'I swear'


CHAPTER FIVE

On the way to the Temple of Flora the children decided to take a short rest and sat on the churchyard wall. 'Oh, Jerry,' said Kathleen. 'I'm simply dying to hear what happened last night.' Gerald told them his story. As he told it some of the white mystery and magic of the moonlit garden got into his voice and his words, so that when he told of the statues and the great beast that came alive, Kathleen and Jimmy listened to him open- mouthed. Then came the thrilling story of the burglars, and the warning letter. Gerald told the story with the greatest enjoyment and in detail. The church clock struck half-past eleven, and they saw Mabel. 'I couldn't wait any longer,' she explained, 'when you didn't come. Has anything more happened? The burglars had gone when Bates got to the room.' 'Go on, Jerry,' said Kathleen. 'He's just got to where he threw the stone into your room, Mabel.' Mabel climbed on to the wall. 'You've got visible again quicker than I did,' she said. Gerald nodded and went on with his story: 'I returned to the room. Soon the burglars came out. They didn't see me, and I saw them all right. 'Which way did they go?' asked Mabel. 'They passed across the park. The stone things that come alive kept looking out from between bushes and under trees. They saw the burglars; but the burglars couldn't see them.' 'The stone things?' asked Mabel. Gerald told her of the statues. 'I never saw them come alive,' she said, 'and I've been in the garden in the evening many times.' 'I saw them,' said Gerald firmly. 'I know, I know,' said Mabel; 'what I mean to say is that they could only be visible when you're invisible.' 'You can be right,' agreed Gerald. 'The castle garden's enchanted, but what I should like to know is how and why. I say, come on, I've got to catch Johnson before twelve.' 'But you can talk as we go,' said Mabel. 'Oh, it is so awfully thrilling!' This pleased Gerald, of course.


'Well, I just followed. They got out of the park the same way, where we got in. Then they went through the place where the poor people live, and right down to the river. And - I say, we must run to catch Johnson.' So the story stopped and the running began. They caught Johnson in his own back-yard washing. 'Look here, Johnson,' said Gerald, 'what'll you give me if I help you to win that reward?' 'Half,' said Johnson, 'but I don't believe any of your nonsense.' 'It's not nonsense,' said Gerald very impressively. 'When you catch the burglars you just give me a quid for luck. I won't ask for more.' 'I'm sure you do want something more off of me,' said Johnson, 'But don't you want the reward yourself?' 'You are right,' said Gerald. 'I want that you never tell anyone who told you. Let them think it was your own luck and far-sightedness. You see, I found it out late at night, in a place where I wasn't supposed to be. Johnson was now too interested, and Gerald told him how he had seen the burglars at Yalding Towers and how he had followed them. 'I saw them hide the sacks and I know the other stolen things are in the same place, and I heard them talk about when to take them away.' 'Come and show me where,' said Johnson. 'No,' said Gerald calmly; 'if you go there now you'll find the silver, but you'll never catch the thieves.' 'You're right there,' said the policeman. 'Well?' 'Well, a car will be waiting for them beyond the boat- house at one o clock tonight. They'll get the things out at half- past twelve. And you could catch them then.' 'It seems to me real enough,' said Johnson. 'He's not a liar - none of us are.' 'It's the chance of your lifetime. Do you agree?' 'I agree,' said Johnson. 'Then when you're on duty you go down to the river, and the place where you see me blow my nose is the place. The sacks are tied to the posts under the water.' Johnson said that he would go immediately. The children were already at the river when they heard the policeman's heavy boots. Gerald


stopped at the end of a little landing-stage and loudly blew his nose. 'Morning,' he said immediately. 'Morning,' said Johnson. 'Got a cold?' 'Ah! I shouldn't have a cold if I'd got boots like yours,' said Gerald admiringly. 'Look at them. Anyone would know your footsteps a mile off. How do you ever get near enough to anyone to arrest them?' He whispered as he passed Johnson, 'That's the place,' and he left followed by the others. 'We've brought a friend home to dinner,' said Kathleen, when Eliza opened the door. 'Where's Mademoiselle?' 'Gone to see Yalding Towers. Today's show day. And hurry over your dinner. It's my afternoon out, and my gentle-man friend doesn't like to wait.' 'All right, we'll eat very quickly,' Gerald promised. They kept their word. The dinner was over in a quarter of an hour. 'And now,' said Mabel, when Eliza disappeared up the stairs, 'where's the ring? I must put it back.' 'I'm very sorry - we're all very sorry,' began Kathleen, and then they told her how the ring was lost. 'Let's all look again. We were rather in a hurry this morning.' So they looked, and they looked. In the bed, under the bed, under the carpet, under the furniture. They shook the curtains; they explored the corners, but found no ring. 'Then,' said Mabel at last, 'your housemaid have stolen it. That's all. I shall tell her I think so.' Suddenly they heard knocking at the back door. All the servants except Eliza were away on their holidays, so the children went together to open the door. When they opened the door they saw a young man, with his hat very much on one side, his mouth open under his fair moustache, and his eyes as nearly round as human eyes can be. He wore a suit of a bright mustard colour and a blue necktie. His expression was that of a person who is being dragged somewhere against his will. He looked so strange that Kathleen tried to shut the door in his face, but she couldn't do it. There was something in the way. 'Leave go of me!' said the young man. 'Oh, yes! I'll leave go of you!' It was the voice of Eliza but no Eliza could be seen. 'Who holds you?' asked Kathleen. 'She has, miss,' replied the unhappy stranger. 'Eliza, miss. At least it sounds like her voice, and it feels like her body, but I can't see her.' 'That's what he keeps on saying,' said Eliza's voice. 'He's my gentleman friend.'


Suddenly his hand dropped. Eliza had 'left go' of him. She pushed past the children, but Gerald caught her by the arm with one hand and whispered: 'Don't move and don't say a word. If you do well, what's to stop me from sending for the police?' Eliza did not know what there was to stop him. So she did as she was told, and stood invisible and silent. The mustard-coloured young man stood looking at the children with eyes, if possible, rounder than before. 'What is it?' he asked. 'What's it all about?' 'If you don't know, I'm afraid we can't tell you,' said Gerald politely, 'but I'll give you a bit of advice. You go home and lie down. You'll be all right tomorrow.' 'The sun's very hot, you know,' added Mabel. 'Hasn't Eliza gone out to meet me?' he asked. 'Eliza's indoors,' said Mabel. 'She can't come out to meet anybody today.' 'You go home and lie down,' said Kathleen. 'I'm sure you must need it. Good afternoon.' 'Good afternoon, miss,' said the young man and went slowly away. The children explained to Eliza very carefully and quite kindly that she really was invisible, and that if you steal rings you can never be sure what will happen to you. 'Is it for ever?' moaned Eliza, 'No one will marry a girl he can't see.' 'No, not for ever,' said Mabel kindly, 'I expect you'll be all right tomorrow.' 'Tonight, I think,' said Gerald. 'We'll help you all we can, and not tell anyone,' said Kathleen. 'Not even the police,' said Jimmy. 'Look here, we'll have a picnic and we'll take Eliza. I'll go out and get the cakes,' said Gerald. When Mademoiselle came home, they started off for Yalding Towers. 'Picnic parties aren't allowed,' said Mabel. 'Ours will be,' said Gerald. Tea and the buns made an excellent picnic. They sat in the garden till the sun set behind the line of black fir-trees on the top of the slope, and the white temple turned grey. 'It would be a very nice place to live in,' said Kathleen. 'Draughty,' said Eliza, 'a lot of steps to clean! Oh, what's that?'


'What?' 'That white thing coming down the steps. Why, it's a young man in statuary 'The statues do come alive here, after sunset,' said Gerald calmly. 'I see they do.' Eliza did not seem at all surprised or alarmed. 'There's another of them. And many more.' 'I don't see any statues,' said Jimmy. 'Don't you see?' Gerald whispered; 'The statues come alive when the sun goes down and you can't see them unless you're invisible, and you're not afraid unless you touch them.' 'Let's get her to touch one and see,' said Jimmy. In the darkness of the park the children could see the statues - white and motionless. But Eliza saw other things. 'Oh,' she cried suddenly, 'here's the dear little boy with the deer - he's coming to me!' Next moment she was screaming and running away. 'Come on!' cried Gerald; 'she touched it, and then she was frightened. Just like I was. Run! She'll send everyone in the town mad if she gets there like that. They ran, but Eliza was much ahead of them. 'I'll stop here; see you tomorrow,' said Mabel, as they reached the terrace. Then they turned the corner of their own street and saw an unseen person trying to open the locked door of the school. The church clock struck the half-hour. 'Half-past nine,' said Gerald. 'Pull at the ring. Perhaps it'll come off now.' He spoke to the bare doorstep. But it was Eliza who suddenly held out a hand - a hand that they could see; and in the hand they saw the magic ring. Next morning Eliza's gentleman friend was waiting for her when she opened the door. 'Sorry you couldn't come out yesterday,' he said. 'So am I. What did you do?' she asked. 'I had a headache,' said the gentleman friend. fcI laid down most of the afternoon. And what did you do?' 'Oh, nothing interesting,' said Eliza. 'Then it was all a dream,' she said, when he was gone; 'but it'll be a lesson to me not to take anybody's old ring again in a hurry.' 'So they didn't tell her about me behaving like I did,' said he as he went - 'sun, I think. I hope it will not happen to me again!'


CHAPTER SIX

Johnson was the hero of the town. It was he who had tracked the burglars and found the stolen silver. It was Gerald who went out after breakfast to buy the newspaper, and who read aloud to the others the two columns about the policeman with perfect detective instincts. As he read every mouth opened wider and wider. 'How could he say all that?' said Kathleen, if it hadn't been for you they could do nothing, Jerry.' 'Well,' said Gerald, 'you know, after all, he had to say something. I'm glad I -' And he stopped. 'You're glad you what?' 'It doesn't matter,' he said, 'Now, what are we going to do today? Mabel will want her ring. And you and Jimmy want it too. Oh, I know. We haven't been attentive to Mademoiselle lately. We'll go to the fair and buy her flowers.' The three children met Mabel at the corner of the square where every Friday there was a fair and you could buy fresh meat, vegetables, sweets, toys, mirrors, and all sorts of other interesting things. The sun was shining, and, as Mabel said, 'all Nature looked smiling and cheerful.' They chose carnations, a bunch of yellow ones, a bunch of white ones, and a bunch of red ones. They took the carna-tions home, and Gerald knocked at the door of the drawing- room, where Mademoiselle seemed to sit all day. 'Come in!' came her voice; and Gerald entered. She was not reading, on the table he saw a sketch-book and an open colour-box. 'With all of our loves,' said Gerald and laying the flowers down before her. 'You are a dear child.' And before Gerald could say any-thing, she kissed him on the two cheeks. 'Are you painting?' he asked. 'I am doing a sketch,' she answered and showed him a beautiful and exact sketch of Yalding Towers. 'Oh, I say - ripping' was the critic's comment. 'May the others come and see?' The others came, including Mabel, who stood behind the rest, and looked over Jimmy's shoulder. Mademoiselle saw Mabel and asked: 'A friend from the town, yes?' 'How do you do?' said Mabel politely. 'No, I'm not from the town. I live at Yalding Towers.' The name seemed to impress Mademoiselle very much.


'Yalding Towers,' she repeated, 'but this is very extraordinary. Is it possible that you are then of the family of Lord Yalding?' 'He hasn't any family,' said Mabel; 'he's not married.' 'Are you his niece then?' 'No,' said Mabel, 'I'm Lord Yalding's housekeeper's niece.' 'But you know Lord Yalding?' 'No,' said Mabel, 'I've never seen him.' 'Then he never comes to his castle?' 'I have never seen him. But he's coming next week.' 'Why doesn't he live there?' Mademoiselle asked. 'Auntie says he's too poor,' said Mabel, and told the story as she had heard it in the housekeeper's room: how Lord Yalding's uncle had left all the money to Lord Yalding's cousin, and poor Lord Yalding had only just enough to keep the old place in repair, and to live very quietly somewhere else. 'But how his uncle could be so cruel to leave him the castle and no money?' asked Mademoiselle. 'Oh, I can tell you that too,' said Mabel. 'Lord Yalding wanted to marry a lady his uncle didn't want him to, a barmaid or a ballet lady or something, and his uncle said, "Well then," and left everything to the cousin.' 'And you say he is not married.' 'No - the lady went into a convent.' 'And this lord did not then look for his lady?' 'Oh, yes did,' said Mabel; 'but there are millions of convents, you know, and he had no idea where to look, and they sent back his letters from the post-office, and - ' 'It seems that one knows all in the housekeeper's saloon,' said Mademoiselle. 'Pretty well all,' said Mabel simply. 'It is nearly dinner-time,' said the French teacher. 'Your friend will be our guest, and in her honour we will make a little feast. My beautiful flowers - put them into the water, Kathleen. I run to buy the cakes. Wash the hands, all, and be ready when I return.' Smiling and nodding to the children, she left them, and ran up the stairs. 'Look here,' said Gerald, 'this is jolly decent of her. Let us stay today indoors and play with her instead. I think she's most awfully bored.'


'Would she really like it?' Kathleen wondered. 'Aunt Emily says grown-ups never really like playing. They do it to please us.' 'They little know,' Gerald answered, 'how often we do it to please them.' 'We've got to do that dressing-up with the Princess clothes anyhow,' said Kathleen. 'We can do it after dinner. Come on, Jimmy; let's help Eliza to lay the table. They went. 'It was lucky,' said Gerald suddenly thought, 'that the burglars didn't go for the diamonds in the treasure-chamber.' 'They couldn't,' said Mabel almost in a whisper; 'they didn't know about them. Nobody knows about them, except me - and you. Aunt doesn't know. I just found out the spring by accident. And if the burglars do know,' said Mabel, 'it'll all come out at the trial.' 'There won't be any trial,' said Gerald thoughtfully. 'No trial?' 'The burglars had been warned by someone and the police didn't catch them,' he said.' 'What a pity!' said Mabel. 'It's a pity you think it's a pity, because it was me,' said Gerald. 'I couldn't help it. I went to a prison once, with father; and after I'd shown the place to Johnson I remembered that, and I just couldn't.' 'How did you warn them?' said Mabel.' 'I just shoved a paper under the man's door - the one that I knew where he lived - to tell him to lie low. I know it was wrong, but I couldn't help it. Don't tell the others. They wouldn't understand why I did it. I don't understand it myself.' 'I do,' said Mabel: 'it's because you've got a kind and noble heart.' 'Come on; let's wash our hands.' 'It's a pity the ring can't make invisible just parts of you - the dirt, for instance.' 'Perhaps,' Gerald said unexpectedly, 'it won't make even all of you invisible again.' 'Why not?' asked Mabel. 'You were invisible twenty-one hours; I was invisible fourteen hours, and Eliza only seven that's seven less each time. And now we've come to zero. It will be something different this time. And there's another odd thing. When you're invisible your relations don't love you. Look at your aunt, and Cathy didn't care about me going burgling. We haven't got to the bottom of that ring yet. It was a real feast. They had cakes and fruit and chocolates. There were jokes and stories and laughter. Jimmy did conjuring, Mademoiselle told them stories of her own school-days and drew


pictures of everything they asked for, till Gerald asked her: 'Do you like acting - the theatre, I mean?' 'But yes - I love it,' 'All right,' said Gerald. 'We'll act a play for you this evening if you like.' 'But certainly,' said Mademoiselle; 'amuse yourselves well, my children.' 'But it's you' said Mabel suddenly, 'that we want to amuse. Because we love you very much don't we, all of you?' 'Yes,' said the others. As Mabel said it, they found to their surprise that it was true. 'You love the old French teacher? Impossible,' said Mademoiselle. 'You're not old,' said Mabel; 'and you're as lovely as a Princess.' The children ran out of the room to get ready for the performance. In the evening Mademoiselle was invited into the dining- room. Eliza held the door open before her, and followed her in. It was rather dark there. The curtain concealed that part of the room, which was the stage. Chairs had been placed across the other end of the room - all the chairs in the house, as it seemed. Mademoiselle started when she saw that many of these chairs were occupied by men and women with strange, clumsy figures, and all with hats on. 'But,' whispered Mademoiselle, 'you have then invited other friends?' Laughter answered her from behind the curtain. 'It's only part of the performance,' cried Mabel. Eliza, laughing, turned on the light. Mademoiselle looked at the figure seated nearest to her, half laughed, half screamed, and sat down suddenly. 'Oh!' she cried, 'they are not alive!' Eliza, with a much louder scream, had found out the same thing and announced it differently. 'They have got no insides,' said she. The seven members of the audience had, indeed, no insides to speak of. Their bodies were rolled-up blankets, their backs were broom-handles, and their arm and leg were hockey sticks and umbrellas. Their hands were gloves filled with handkerchiefs; and their faces were the paper masks painted in the afternoon by Gerald and tied on to the round heads made of the pillows. The faces were really ugly. 'You have made yourself an audience, yes? Bravo!' cried Mademoiselle. At this moment the curtain went up. A voice said, 'Beauty and the Beast.' There was a real stage - the dining-tables pushed close together and covered with pink-andwhite curtains. The scene was simple, but convincing.


You may imagine what Beauty and the Beast would be like acted by four children who had spent the afternoon arranging their costumes and so had left no time for rehearsing what they had to say. Yet they acted with great pleasure, and the audience liked it. Mabel, in her Princess clothes, was a real Beauty; Gerald was a Beast, Jimmy was a merchant, and Kathleen surprised even herself by the quickness with which she changed from one to the other of small roles - fairies, servants, and messengers. It was at the end of the second act that Gerald put a ring into Mabel's hand and said, 'Good-bye, dear Beauty! This is a magic ring that will give you anything you wish. When you desire to return to your beast, put on the ring and say your wish. And you will be by my side.' Beauty-Mabel took the ring, and it was the ring. The curtain closed to warm applause from two pairs of hands. 'It's a pity those creatures we made are not alive,' said Mabel. 'We could get something like real applause then.' 'I'm glad they aren't,' said Gerald. 'When I catch their paper eyes I fell awful.' It was the middle of the last act when it all happened. Mademoiselle began it: she applauded the garden scene. Eliza's fat red hands followed heavily, and then - someone else was applauding, six or seven people. Nine faces instead of two were turned towards the stage, and seven out of the nine were painted paper faces. And every hand and every face was alive. Mabel looked at the audience in horror, Mademoiselle and Eliza ran from the room. 'Curtain! curtain! quick!' cried Beauty-Mabel, in a voice that wasn't Mabel's or the Beauty's. 'Jerry, those things have come alive. Oh, what shall we do?' Jimmy and Kathleen drew the curtains. 'You've done it this time!' said Gerald to worried Mabel. 'I've done it?' asked Mabel. 'I like that!' 'I knew something different was going to happen,' said Gerald. 'It's turned into a wishing ring. Those Ugly-Wuglies have come alive because Mabel wished it.' 'We must go and pull them to pieces.' 'They're going out!' screamed Kathleen - 'walkingout - on their umbrella and broomstick legs. You can't stop them, Jerry, they're too awful!' 'Everybody in the town will be mad if we don't stop them,' cried Gerald. 'Here, give me the ring, I'll unwish them.' He took the ring from Mabel, cried, 'I wish the Uglies weren't alive,' and ran to the door. But nothing happened. The hall was crowded with live things, strange things, all horribly short as broom sticks and umbrellas are short. A white face with red cheeks looked up at him, and wide red lips said something, he could not tell what. And it had said it four times before Gerald could understand that


this alive horror was saying calmly and politely: 'Can you recommend me a good hotel?'


CHAPTER SEVEN

The thing was alive, and was asking a definite and a reasonable question. 'You want a hotel?' Gerald repeated stupidly, 'a good hotel?' 'A good hotel,' said the painted lips. 'I'm awfully sorry,' Gerald went on politely, kbut all our hotels shut so early - about eight, I think,' 'Knock them up,' said the Ugly-Wugly. Gerald even now does not understand how that creature made of clothes could become a perfectly respectable person, about fifty years old - the kind of man who travels first class and smokes expensive cigars. 'You can't' Gerald explained; 'they're all deaf - every person who keeps a hotel in this town. It's a law. Only deaf people are allowed to keep hotels. It's because of the hops in the beer, they are so good for ear-ache.' The other Ugly-Wuglies were crowding round. The lady in a tall hat said: 'If not a hotel, a room.' 'I do know rooms,' said Gerald, 'but -' The lady Ugly- Wugly in the hat with flowers interrupted him. 'What I want to know,' she said, 'is where are the carriages we ordered?' 'I don't know,' said Gerald, 'but I'll find out. But we must go now,' he added; 'you see, the performance is over, and they want to shut up the house and turn off the light. Let's go.' The Ugly-Wuglies went towards the front door. 'I'll try to do anything, of course,' said Gerald. 'I could go with you, and get you a lodging, if you'd only wait a few moments in the yard. You see I've got an uncle who's quite mad, and I have to give him his gruel at half-past nine. He refuses to eat out of any hand but mine.' Gerald did not mind what he said. You can tell lies to the Ugly-Wuglies, because they are not real people and cannot be really deceived. Gerald went through the back door, down the steps into the yard, and the Ugly-Wuglies followed him. Some of them had boots, but the ones whose feet were only broomsticks or umbrellas had problems with the stairs. 'Please wait under the balcony,' said Gerald, 'my uncle is very mad. If he sees any strangers - I mean, even aristocratic ones - I won't answer for the consequences.'


'Perhaps,' said the lady in the hat with flowers nervously, 'we could try to find rooms ourselves?' 'I don't recommend it to you,' said Gerald as gloomily as he could; 'the police here arrest all strangers. It's the new law. I wouldn't like to see you in prison,' he added convincingly. The Ugly-Wuglies gathered under the balcony. Gerald went up the stairs. Behind him in the yard there were seven impossible creatures. Before him in the silent house there were five frightened people. Of course the reason why Gerald was not afraid was that he had the ring; and, as you have seen, the person who wears it is not frightened by anything unless he touches that thing. But Gerald knew well enough how the others must feel. 'Cathy! I say! Jimmy! Mabel!' he cried in a loud, cheerful voice that sounded very unreal to himself. The dining-room door opened. 'Are you alone?' whispered Kathleen. 'Yes, of course.' 'Where are they? Have you unwished them? We heard them talking. Horrible!' 'They're in the yard,' said Gerald with the best imitation of excitement that he could manage. 'It is such fun! They're just like real people, quite kind and jolly. Look here, Kathleen and Jimmy must go to bed, and I'll take Mabel home. I must find some place where the Ugly-Wuglies could stay. Now I'll speak to Mademoiselle and Eliza.' He put on his coat as he spoke and now ran up the stairs. The others, gathered in the hall, could hear his knock at Mademoiselle's door, his words 'It's only me - Gerald,' the pause, the opening of the door, and the talk that followed. Then Mademoiselle and Gerald went to Eliza's door, trying to calm her down. 'I wonder what lies he's telling them,' said Jimmy. 'Oh! not lies,' said Mabel; 'he's only telling them as much of the truth as it's good for them to know.' 'I'm so sorry you were frightened,' Gerald was saying; 'it was a good trick, wasn't it?' 'Well, so it was,' said Mabel. 'It was indeed a wonderful trick,' said Mademoiselle; 'and how did you move the figures?' 'Oh, we've often done it - with strings, you know,' Gerald explained. 'That's true, too,' Kathleen whispered. 'Can you do this remarkable trick again?' asked Mademoiselle.


'Oh, I've cleared them all out,' said Gerald. ('So he has,' said Kathleen to Jimmy.) 'We thought you wouldn't like to see them again.' Mademoiselle entered the dining-room and saw that the figures had indeed disappeared. Then Gerald explained to her that it was his duty to escort Mabel home. The moment that front door was shut Gerald led Mabel to the corner of the side street which led to the yard. Just round the corner he stopped. 'Now,' he said, 'what I want to know is - are you an idiot or aren't you?' 'Idiot yourself]' said Mabel mechanically. 'I'm not frightened of the Ugly-Wuglies. They're harmless. But an idiot might be frightened and give the whole show away.' 'I'm not an idiot,' said Mabel terribly frightened; 'I'm not afraid of anything.' 'Mabel,' said Gerald, in low, thrilling tones, for he saw that the time had come to sound another note, I know you're brave. I believe in you. That's why I've arranged it like this. I'm certain you've got the heart of a lion. Can I trust you?' Mabel felt that to say anything but 'Yes' was to throw away a priceless reputation for courage. So she said 'Yes.' 'Then wait here. And when you see me with them remember they're as harmless as snakes - I mean doves. Talk to them just like you would to anyone else. See?' He turned to leave her, but stopped at her natural question: 'What hotel did you say you were going to take them to?' 'Oh!' said Gerald hands. 'I forgot! I wanted to ask you - are there any rooms or anything in the castle where I could put them for the night? The charm will break, you know, some time and they'll just be coats and things that we can easily carry home any day.' 'There's a secret passage,' Mabel began - but at the moment the yard-door opened and an UglyWugly put out its head and looked down the street. 'Righto!' - Gerald ran to meet it. Mabel's hands became cold and damp, but she stood, saying over and over again: 'They're not true - they can't be true. It's only a dream.' And then Gerald was there, and all the Ugly-Wuglies crowding round, and Gerald saying: 'This is one of our friends, Mabel - the Princess in the play, you know.' The Ugli-Wuglies shook her hand and talked very nicely to her. Then they all walked up the High Street as if, as Gerald said, they were anybody else. It was a very strange procession, but fortunately they met no one. Mabel decided to show Gerald that she was not an idiot. So she went on talking with these impossible people.


Finally the procession arrived at the gates of the castle. Locked - of course. 'You see,' explained Gerald, as the Ugly-Wuglies shook the gates with his hands; 'it's so very late. There is another way. But you have to climb through a hole.' 'The ladies -' the respectable Ugly-Wugly began; but the ladies with one voice said that they loved adventures. 'So thrilling,' added the one who wore roses. So they went round by the road, climbed through the hole and came through all passages and arches to the castle garden. The Ugly-Wuglies looked at the garden and marble terraces in admiration. 'This seems a very good hotel,' said the Ugly-Wugly in a high hat. 'We will have to go in by the back door,' said Mabel suddenly. 'The front door's locked at halfpast nine.' They went up the steps of the Temple of Flora. Mabel passed behind the statue of the goddess, and then Gerald's lantern showed a very high and very narrow doorway: the stone that was the door, and that had closed it, moved slowly under the touch of Mabel's fingers. 'This way,' she said, feeling very nervous. 'You lead the way, with the lantern,' said a small Ugly- Wugly to Gerald. 'I - I must stay behind to close the door,' said Gerald. 'The Princess can do that. We'll help her,' said the lady with flowers. 'You take it,' insisted Gerald giving the lantern to the elderly Ugly-Wugly; 'you're the natural leader. Go straight ahead.' The respectable Ugly-Wugly and the others disappeared into that narrow doorway. Gerald and Mabel almost sobbed with relief. But they didn't have time to close the door. Suddenly the UglyWuglies returned and tried to open it again. They could see something in the dark passage that alarmed them or they took it into their empty heads that this could not be the back way to any really respectable hotel - Mabel and Gerald never knew. But they knew that the Ugly-Wuglies were no longer polite and friendly. They were angrily shouting threats and trying to open the narrow stone door. 'Push, push!' cried Gerald. 'I can't any more - oh, I can't!' moaned Mabel. 'They mustn't get out!' shouted Gerald. 'What's up, there?' cried suddenly a new voice and a new shadow fell on the marble floor of the Temple of Flora.


'Come and help push!' shouted Gerald. 'If they get out, they'll kill us all.' A strong shoulder pushed suddenly between the shoulders of Gerald and Mabel; the heavy, narrow door slowly closed, and the angry, threatening mass of Ugly-Wuglies was shut in. The stranger looked at them and asked: 'Who are you, and what's it all about?' 'I can't possibly tell you,' answered Gerald. 'Come out into the moonlight and let's talk,' said the man. The stranger led both children out from the temple into the bright white moonlight and sat down on the steps, a child on each side of him. He was clean-shaven, and had large eyes that sparkled when the moonlight touched them. He looked at the children and said in a friendly way: 'Now then! Go ahead!' Mabel sobbed, but Gerald said: 'If we told you the truth, you wouldn't believe it.' 'Let me just put the thing from my point of view. I come down from London to take care of a big estate. On the very first evening I go out for a walk air, and approaching a white building, hear sounds of a scuffle, accompanied by cries for help. I do help and shut in someone who behind a stone door. Now, is it unreasonable to ask who it is that I've shut in - helped to shut up, I mean, and who it is that I've helped?' 'It's reasonable enough,' agreed Gerald. 'Well then,' said the stranger. 'No,' said Gerald, 'I simply can't tell you.' 'Then I must ask the other side,' said the man. 'Let me go - I'll open that door and find out for myself.' 'Tell him,' said Mabel, speaking for the first time. 'We can't let them out.' 'Very well,' said Gerald, 'I'll tell him. Will you promise us that you won't tell any one what we tell you and that you won't put us in a lunatic asylum if you think that we are mad?' 'Yes,' said the stranger, 'I think I can promise that. 'Let me begin, then,' said Mabel. 'I found a ring, and I said it would make me invisible. I said it in play. And it did. I was invisible twenty-one hours. Don't ask where I got the ring. Now, Gerald, you go on.' Gerald went on. He spoke for a long time. 'And so,' he ended, 'we got them in there; and when seven hours are over, or fourteen, or twenty-one, or some-thing with a seven in it, they'll just be old coats again. They came alive at half-


past nine. I think they'll stop being it in seven hours - that's half-past four. Now will you let us go home?' 'I'll take you home,' said the stranger in a kindly tone. 'Come.' 'You don't believe us,' said Gerald. 'Of course you don't. Nobody could.' 'Come, and I'll take you home, ' said the man. 'Mabel lives at the Towers,' said Gerald. 'I'm housekeeper's niece,' said Mabel. The stranger took Mabel to the castle and went with Gerald to the door of the school. 'Look here,' said Gerald. 'I know that you're going to open that door.' 'Possibly,' said the man. 'Well - don't. Or, any way, wait till daylight and let us be there. We can get there at ten.' 'All right - I'll meet you there at ten,' answered the stranger. 'Good night.' As the four children went towards the Temple of Flora, they talked, as they had talked all the morning, about the ad-ventures of last night. It was not ten, but half-past twelve; be-cause they had to clear up the mess in the dining-room. 'I do hope he'll be there,' Mabel said; 'he was such a dear, a real gentleman.' 'He isn't there, though,' said Jimmy. 'I believe you it was just a dream.' They went up the marble steps in the sunshine, and it was difficult to believe that it was the same place where Gerald and Mabel had been so frightened. 'Shall we open the door,' suggested Kathleen, 'and begin to carry home the coats?' 'Let's listen first,' said Gerald; 'perhaps they aren't only coats yet.' They listened, but the passage behind the stone door was quiet. As they turned away they saw the man they had come to meet. He was on the other side of Flora's pedestal. He lay there on his back, his arms flung wide. 'Oh, lookf cried Cathy, and pointed. The stranger's face was almost green, and on his forehead there was a cut; and a little blood from it was on the marble floor. At the same time Mabel pointed too - but she did not cry as Cathy had done. And she pointed at a white painted paper face with very red lips. In a moment the face disappeared in the bushes.


CHAPTER EIGHT

It was clear that the stranger had opened the door before the charm broke. The Ugly-Wuglies were then something more than just coats and hats and sticks. So they had hit him on his forehead with some kind of stick. Jimmy and Gerald both knew what was the first thing needed by the unconscious man, even before Mabel impatiently said: 'Water! water!' The two boys turned away. 'And if they go after us?' asked Jimmy. 'What go after us?' said Gerald sharply. 'The Ugly-Wuglies,' Jimmy whispered. 'I'll do it,' said Gerald. He looked to right and left very carefully, and chose the way to the lake that did not lead near the bushes. He dropped his handkerchief into the water and returned to the Temple of Flora. It was with this that the girls wiped the blood from the man's forehead. 'We need smelling salts,' said Kathleen to Mabel. 'Hasn't your aunt any?' 'Yes, but 'Don't be a coward,' said Gerald; 'They won't hurt you.' There was no choice, so Mabel looked at the bushes and ran towards the castle. 'He's not dead, is he?' asked Jimmy anxiously. 'No,' said Kathleen, 'his heart's beating. How good-looking he is!' Suddenly a shadow fell on the marble beside them and a voice said: 'Quite a nice young man.' The children looked up and saw the face of the respectable Ugly-Wugly. Jimmy and Kathleen screamed. Gerald was not frightened because he was wearing the magic ring. He looked into the face of the Ugly-Wugly and started. The face was no longer paper. It was a real face, and the hands were real hands. It was alive. 'What happened?' asked Gerald. 'The others lost their way in the passage last night,' said the Ugly-Wugly. They never found the hotel.' 'Did you?' asked Gerald.


'Of course,' said the Ugly-Wugly. 'Most respectable, exactly as you said. Then when I came away I found the others all at this door, very angry. They'd been here all night, trying to get out. Then this gentleman opened the door and that man in the high hat who has bad manners hit him on the head, and he fell where you see him. The others went away, and I myself was just going for help when I saw you.' Jimmy was sobbing and Kathleen was white as drawing- paper. 'What's the matter, my little man?' said the respectable Ugly-Wugly kindly. 'Here, take the ring!' whispered Gerald and put it on Jimmy's finger. Jimmy stopped crying at once. And Gerald realized what it was that Mabel had gone through the night before. But it was daylight, and Gerald was not a coward. 'We must find the others,' he said. 'You two go and see. I'll stay with the man.' In the wood Jimmy, now fearless as a lion, discovered the Ugly-Wuglies. There was no life in them. Jimmy shook them to pieces. When Kathleen and Jimmy returned to the Temple of Flora, Gerald asked the elderly UglyWugly to hide in the bushes with Jimmy. 'I think,' said he, 'the man may be upset when he sees the strangers.' So the two disappeared behind the bushes. Mabel came back with the salts just as the stranger opened his eyes with the question: 'What's up now?' 'You've hurt your head,' said Gerald. The man sat up, looked round him and said: 'When did it happen?' 'We don't know. We found you like it,' said Gerald. 'I'm all right now,' said the stranger, 'thank you for the first aid. But what an odd thing!' 'What's an odd thing?' asked Gerald. 'Well, I saw you just before I fainted, or whatever it was - but I had the most extraordinary dream while I was un-conscious and you were in it.' 'Only us?' asked Mabel. 'Oh, many things - impossible things - but you were real enough.' Everyone breathed deeply in relief. 'I dreamed there was a door behind Flora's statue, but of course there isn't. I don't know how to thank you,' he added, looking at them with what the girls called his beautiful, kind eyes; 'You come here when you like, you know.' 'I'll tell you what,' said Gerald, as the stranger disappeared in the trees, 'I think I know how we can spend the day. Let's go home and seal up the ring in an envelope so that it'll be powerless to do something horrible. Then we'll get out on the roof and have a quiet day - books and apples. I'm fed up


with adventures.' The others told him the same thing. 'But first we must get rid of that Ugly-Wugly,' said Gerald. 'The Ugly-Wugly's real - don't make any mistake about that. And he became real inside that passage. If we could get him back there he might get changed again, and then we could take the coats and things back.' 'Isn't there any other way?' Kathleen asked; and Mabel said sharply: 'I'm not going into that passage!' 'Afraid! In broad daylight,' Gerald sneered. 'It isn't broad daylight in there,' said Mabel. 'Anyway,' said Gerald, 'we'll try to get him back, and shut the door. That's the most we can hope for. Now, we've just got to do it. And he's not terrible. He's real, you see. Come on!' He took a hand of each girl, and they walked towards the bushes behind which Jimmy and the Ugly-Wugly had been told to wait. When they were near the bushes Jimmy came out into the sunlight. He was alone. 'Where is it?' asked the girls in one breath. 'Walking up and down in a walk,' said Jimmy, 'doing sums in a book. He says he's a broker. He's very rich, he's got a car, and a garden with a tennis-court and a lake and he goes to Greece for his holiday sometimes. He's building a public library for the people where he lives.' The children passed the bushes and reached a grass walk surrounded by trees of different kinds. 'He's just round that corner,' said Jimmy. He's simply rolling in money. He doesn't know what to do with it. I wish I was rich; I'd soon show him - ' 'Oh!' cried Gerald. There, in the green shadows of the trees Jimmy got his wish. He became rich. And the horrible thing was that though they could see what was happening, they could not stop it. The whole thing was over in a few seconds. Yet in those few seconds they saw him grow to a young man, a middle-aged man; and then, he turned into an elderly gentleman, who was looking down at them through spectacles and asking them the nearest way to the railway-station. It was hard to believe that this stout, well-dressed elderly gentleman with the high hat was their own Jimmy. 'Oh, Jimmy, don't!' cried Mabel. Gerald said: 'This is awful,' and Kathleen burst into tears. 'Don't cry, little girl!' said That-which-had-been Jimmy; 'and you, boy, can't you give an answer to a question?' 'He doesn't know us!' cried Kathleen. 'Look here, Jimmy,' said Gerald. 'Are you kidding? Because if you are, it's simply-' 'My name is Mr-,' said That-which-had-been-Jimmy, and gave the name correctly. 'And I don't


know you.' By the way, it will perhaps be shorter to call this elderly stout person 'That' - short for 'That-which-had-been Jimmy'. 'What shall we do?' whispered Mabel in horror, and aloud she said: 'Oh, Mr. James, please give me the ring.' 'Certainly not,' said That firmly. 'Will you tell me the way to the nearest railway station? 'No,' said Gerald, 'we won't.' 'Then,' said That, politely, though quite clearly angrily, 'perhaps you'll tell me the way to the nearest lunatic asylum?' 'Oh, no!' cried Kathleen. 'You're not mad,' 'I'm not, but you are,' said That. 'If you're not mad, you're idiots. However, I see a gentleman ahead. I recognize him.' And he walked towards the elderly Ugly-Wugly. Two elderly figures raised their hats, said a few words to each other and walked side by side down the green walk, followed by three unhappy children. 'He wished to be rich, so of course he is,' said Gerald; 'he'll have money for tickets and everything. And when the charm breaks he'll find himself somewhere - perhaps in a really good hotel and not know how he got there. Look here, you two must collect the coats and things. Hide them, anywhere you like, and we'll carry them home tomorrow. I must stick to Jimmy. Go home to Mademoiselle and tell her Jimmy and I have gone off in the train and will be back to tea.' And Gerald started to run after the Ugly-Wugly and That. He followed them to the station, listened at the ticket office to the voice of That who asked a ticket to London. When That and the Ugly-Wugly appeared on the platform, he bought a third return to London. The train arrived and everyone took their seats. 'I don't understand,' said Gerald, alone in his third-class carriage, 'how railway trains and magic can be at the same time.' And yet they do. Mabel and Kathleen found six heaps of coats, hats, skirts, gloves, golf-clubs, hockey-sticks, broom-handles. They carried them up the hill to the stone dinosaur and put them in a hole in his stomach. Then they returned to school. Just as they were explaining to Mademoiselle that the boys had gone to London, a figure passed the window. It was the stranger who was coming back from the doctor's with antiseptic plaster on his cut. 'Who's that?' suddenly asked Mademoiselle. The girls said that they had met him at Yalding Towers. After that Mademoiselle didn't ask them any questions about the boys and later went out for a walk. Kathleen and Mabel stayed at school thinking of Gerald and Jimmy. Gerald was standing on the stairs of a London office building. On the floor below him was a


door with a name 'Mr U. W. Ugli, Broker' and on the floor above was another door, on which was the name of Gerald's little brother, now elderly and very rich. There were no explaining words under Jimmy's name. When the door opened, Gerald saw a lot of clerks and mahogany desks. It was clear that That had a large business, though Gerald couldn't guess what. What could Gerald do? It is almost impossible for a boy to enter a large London office and explain that the elderly and respccted head of it is not what he seems, but is really your little brother, who had been made old and rich by a wishing ring. He couldn't knock at the door of Mr U. W. Ugli and inform his clerks that their chief was just old clothes that had accidentally come alive and then became real. There was another difficulty. Gerald had had no dinner and was very hungry. At that moment a boy came up the stairs. He had in his hands a dark blue bag full of buns. 'If you get me buns too, I'll give you half a shilling,' said Gerald. 'All right, give the money,' quickly said the boy. 'Payment on delivery,' said Gerald, using words, which he had never thought to use. The boy looked at him in admiration and left. When he returned Gerald gave the sixpence and took the buns. A minute later the boy came out of Mr U. W. Ugli's office. 'What sort of man's that?' he asked. 'Big pot,' said the boy; 'very rich.' 'Know anything about the one on the next floor?' 'He's bigger than this one. Very old firm. These two have been rivals for years,' said the boy. 'Look here. I'll give you five shillings if you help me.' 'Go ahead,' said the boy. 'I'm a private detective,' said Gerald. 'That old man on the floor above - he's wanted' 'Police?' asked the boy. 'No - relations. And I must get him to them, somehow. Now, if you could go in and give him a message from someone who wanted to meet him on business -' 'I've got a better idea,' said the boy. 'You go in and see old Ugli. He'd give his ears to have the old boy out of the way for a day or-two.' 'You're right,' said Gerald. 'I'll try to do it. Here's your five shillings.' He knocked at the door of Mr U. W. Ugli. It opened and he entered. The boy went down a few steps and heard the voice of Mr U. W. Ugli. He was saying:


'Then I'll ask him to let me look at the ring and I'll drop it. You pick it up. But remember, you don't know me. You're sure he's really unwell?' 'Yes,' said Gerald; 'he's quite mad about that ring. He'll follow it anywhere. I know he will. And think of his unhappy relations.' 'I do - I do,' said Mr Ugli kindly; 'that's all I think of, of course.' He went up the stairs to the other office, and then That and Mr Ugli went out to have lunch. The two boys followed. 'I say,' said the boy, 'what are you up to?' 'Well, I'll tell you, but you won't believe me. That old gentleman's not really old at all - he's my younger brother who suddenly turned into what you see. The other's not real at all. He's only just old clothes and nothing inside. They were turned like that by a magic ring'. 'There is no such thing as magic,' said the boy. ,I learned that at school.' 'All right,' said Gerald. 'Good-bye.' 'Oh, go ahead!' said the boy. 'Well, if I can get that magic ring I shall just wish we were all in a certain place. And we shall be. And then I will take care of them.' That and Mr Ugli entered a very expensive restaurant. Gerald was going to follow them. 'I say, are you really going into this place?' 'Yes, I am. You go, too. I'll pay for the lunch. The boy was the only person Gerald knew in London except That-which-had-been-Jimmy and the Ugly-Wugly; and he did not want to talk to them. What happened next happened so quickly that, as Gerald said later, it was 'just like magic'. The restaurant was crowded. Gerald ordered two chops. Then at the next table he heard the words, 'Ah, yes, a curious old family thing.' That took off the ring and gave it to Mr Ugli. And then the ring slipped from the hand of Mr Ugli and fell on the floor. Gerald grasped the ring, put it on his finger and cried out aloud in that crowded place: 'I wish Jimmy and I were inside that door behind the statue of Flora.' It was the only safe place he could think of. Gerald never knew what happened in that restaurant. There was nothing about it in the papers. He never knew what the boy did or thought. The lights and the sounds of the restaurant disappeared. Now there was darkness and silence around them. And through the darkness came a voice - and it was not the voice of that elderly man who had been Jimmy, but the voice of Jimmy who was Gerald's little brother. The voice said: 'Jerry, Jerry! I've had such an odd dream.' 'It's all right, Jimmy,' he said; 'it's not a dream now. It's that ring again. I had to wish us here, to


get you back out of your dream.' 'Wish us where?' asked Jimmy. 'Inside the passage behind the Flora statue,' said Gerald. 'But how are we going to get out?' asked Jimmy. 'Oh! I know. It isn't true. It's a dream!' 'Yes,' said Gerald bravely, 'it's just a dream, Jimmy. We'll just call out now and then, but it's really only a dream, of course.'


CHAPTER NINE

When people are surrounded by magic almost anything may happen. So it is not surprising that Mabel and Kathleen felt a strange, unreasonable, but quite strong wish to return to the Temple of Flora. And this explains how it was that when Gerald and Jimmy, holding hands in the darkness of the passage, called for help for the first time, and that call was at once answered from outside. Mabel and Kathleen opened the stone door, and the boys came out of the passage into the Temple of Flora. Then Gerald and Jimmy answered the questions of their sister and Mabel. 'And you left that Ugly-Wugly in London,' said Mabel; 'though you could take him with you.' 'It's all right where it is,' said Gerald. 'I couldn't think of everything. And besides, no, thank you!' 'Look here,' said Mabel, 'let's just put the ring back in the treasure-room. It's time to have done with it.' So they went up to the castle, and the ring was put back among the odd ornaments that Mabel had once said were magic. 'It doesn't look magic at all!' said Gerald. 'It's just like an old silly ring. I wonder if what Mabel said about the other things is true! Let's try.' 'I'd like to try,' said Mabel, 'only - I don't remember what I said anything was.' So had the others. Perhaps that was why, when they invented qualities for various rings and chains and brooches, nothing at all happened. 'It's only the ring that's magic,' said Mabel at last; 'Oh, I say!' she added, in quite a different voice. 'What?' 'I think the ring is not magic!' 'But we know it is.' 'What ring?' 'The wishing-ring,' said Kathleen; 'the invisibility ring.' 'Don't you see,' said Mabel, opening her dark eyes very wide, 'the ring is what you say it is? That's how it made us invisible - I just said it. Oh, we can't leave it here. It is too valuable. Say what it is.'


'It's a wishing-ring,' said Jimmy. 'We've had that before and you had your silly wish,' said Mabel, more and more excited. 'I say it isn't a wishing-ring. I say it's a ring that makes the person who wears it four yards high.' She put the ring on her finger and at the same moment she became indeed four yards high. 'Now you've done it!' said Gerald and he was right. 'Oh, Mabel, it was silly of you!' said Kathleen. 'You didn't believe me when I said it was what I said it was,' said Mabel. 'And I had to show it to you. What shall I do now, I should like to know?' 'We must conceal you till you get normal,' said Gerald practically. 'Yes - but where?' said Mabel. 'I'm afraid one of you will have to stay the night with me. I'm not going to be left alone, the silly height I am.' Height was the right word; Mabel had said 'four yards high' and she was four yards high. But she was as thin as when her height was normal, so she looked, as Gerald said, 'like a nice worm'. Her clothes had, of course, grown with her. She sat down suddenly on the floor. 'It's no use sitting there,' said Gerald. 'I'm not sitting here,' said Mabel; 'I only got down so as to be able to get through the door. I think I'll have to go on my hands and knees through most places. Look here, I must be out of doors before it gets dark.' 'You can't. Someone will see you.' 'No, I can creep on my front like a snake and hide in the bushes near the dinosaur,' said Mabel. 'And we could have a picnic there. I'll write to auntie. She'll give you the things for a picnic.' So she wrote on a page from Gerald's note-book: 'DEAREST AUNTIE, 'Please may we have some things for a picnic? Gerald will bring them. I can't come myself, because I am a little tired. I think I have been growing rather fast, - Your loving niece, Mabel. P.S. - Lot of things, please, because some of us are very hungry.' It was difficult, but possible, for Mabel to creep through the bushes. When Gerald returned with a basket, her long, pale face could be seen among the leaves, very near the ground. 'I look just like anybody else like this, don't I?' she asked anxiously; 'all the rest of me is miles away, under different bushes.' 'We've covered up the parts between the bushes with branches and leaves,' said Kathleen; 'don't


move, Mabel, or you'll shake them off.' Jimmy was unpacking the basket. He found there many good things: bread and butter, a bottle of milk, a bottle of water, cake and apples. It was a wonderful picnic. Everyone became happy and calm. A nice after-food peace filled the summer air. Even the stone dinosaur seemed peaceful and happy. 'I think he liked a good meal in his day,' said Gerald. 'Who did?' 'The dinosaur,' said Gerald. 'He had a meal today,' said Kathleen, and giggled. 'Yes,' said Mabel, giggling also. 'What do you mean a meal?' Jimmy asked suspiciously. 'Oh, don't be stupid!' said Kathleen. 'We fed the dinosaur through the hole in his stomach with the clothes the Ugly- Wuglies were made of!' 'We can take them home with us, then,' said Gerald, 'so that's all right.' 'Look here,' said Kathleen suddenly; 'I've got an idea. Let me have the ring. I'll give it back before we go.' 'Oh, but you aren't going yet!' said Mabel. She pulled off the ring. Kathleen took the ring and started to run towards the dinosaur, crying, 'Let's go and take the things now.' Her idea was quite simple. She knew that a person who is not enchanted by the ring could rename it and change its powers. She wanted to say aloud, so that the others could not hear her, 'This is a wishing-ring. It gives you any wish you choose.' And she did say it. And no one heard her, except the birds. The way was uphill; it was sunny, and Kathleen had run fast. So when her brothers caught her at the dinosaur she was very hot indeed and couldn't decide calmly what to wish. 'I'll get up and move the things down, because I know where I put them,' she said. Gerald and Jimmy helped her to climb up, and she disappeared through the hole into the dark inside of the monster. Then she began to throw down clothes and sticks. 'I'm coming up to help you,' said Gerald. Just as he got his shoulders through the opening he heard Kathleen's boots on the floor of the dinosaur's inside, and Kathleen's voice: 'It's so cool in here. Statues are always cool. I wish to be a statue. Oh!' The 'oh' was a cry of horror. 'What's up?' Gerald asked. But in his heart he knew. He climbed up inside. In the little light that came up through the hole he could see something white. He struck a match and saw the face of


Kathleen, white, stony, and lifeless. Her hair was white, too, and her hands, clothes, shoes - everything was white, hard and cold. Kathleen had her wish: she was a marble statue. Gerald could not speak. It was too sudden, too terrible. Then he turned and spoke down out of that cold, stony silence to Jimmy, in the green, sunny live world outside. 'Jimmy,' he said, 'Kathleen's gone and said that ring was a wishing-ring. And so it was, of course. I see now what she was up to, running like that. And then she went and wished she was a statue.' 'And she is?' asked Jimmy, below. 'Come up and have a look,' said Gerald. And Jimmy came. 'She is really a statue,' he said in horror. 'Come on - let's go and tell Mabel,' said Gerald. The two boys returned and told her the news. 'Oh, how awful! What next?' said Mabel. 'She'll come all right' said Gerald, trying to be calm. 'Yes; but what about me?' asked Mabel. 'I haven't got the ring. And my time will be up before hers is. Could you get it off her hand? I'll put it back on her hand when I am normal again.' 'I'm afraid the ring's turned to stone like her boots and all her clothes. But I'll go and see.' Gerald got inside the dinosaur, struck a match and saw the dark ring on the white hand of the marble Kathleen. He pulled the ring, and, to his surprise, it slipped easily off the cold marble finger. 'I say, Cathy, I am sorry,' he said. Then he thought that perhaps she could hear him. So he told the statue exactly what he and the others wanted to do. Then he returned to the others. 'Here's your ring,' he said to Mabel. 'Now you're not frightened of anything, are you?' 'No,' said Mabel, in surprise. 'I'll stay here, but you must leave me all the coats, because it will be cold in the night. Then I shall be here when Kathleen comes out of the stone again. And you two go home and tell Mademoiselle that Kathleen's staying at the Towers.' 'But we don't know which of you will come right first. Anyhow, we'll say good night to Mademoiselle, and come and have a look at you before we go to bed,' said Gerald. Mabel crept under the dinosaur, the boys covered her with coats and left. The sun had disappeared behind the black trees and the moon was rising. Mabel slept peacefully under the dinosaur. Inside the monster Kathleen, alive in her marble, slept too. She had heard Gerald's words. She was the same Kathleen, only she was Kathleen in a case of marble that didn't let her move. Inside, the marble was not cold or hard, but warm and pleasantly safe. Everything was well. She had only to wait quietly and quite comfortably when she would come out of this stone case. So she waited calmly and


then fell asleep. When she woke she felt needles in feet, and her arms were tired. She rubbed her eyes and remembered. She had been a statue, a statue inside the stone dinosaur. 'Now I'm alive again,' she said, 'and I'll get out of it.' She sat down, put her feet through the hole, and realized that the dinosaur was moving! 'Oh!' said Kathleen inside it. 'It is moonlight, and it's come alive, like Gerald said.' It was indeed moving. Kathleen was afraid to jump out of it, because the beast was moving fast. They were going downhill. Then Kathleen heard a splash. They were close to water - the lake. Kathleen dropped quickly out of the hole on the grass, ran sideways and stood panting in the shadow of a statue's pedestal. A moment later the dinosaur slipped heavily into the water, and swam towards the central island. 'Be careful, little lady. I jump!' The voice came from the pedestal, and next moment Phoebus had jumped from the pedestal. 'You are new,' said Phoebus. 'I haven't seen you before.' 'I am quite new,' said Kathleen, 'And I didn't know you could talk.' 'Why not?' Phoebus laughed. 'You can talk.' 'But I'm alive.' 'Am I not?' he asked. 'The white water calls me! I go.' And he jumped into the water. Kathleen turned and went up the hill towards the bushes. She must find Mabel, and they must go home at once. She found Mabel very quickly, because her long and worm-like form covered with coats and trousers could be easily seen in the moonlight. Kathleen touched her long cheek gently, and she woke. 'What's up?' she said sleepily. 'It's only me,' Kathleen explained. 'How cold your hands are!' said Mabel. 'Wake up,' said Kathleen, 'and let's talk.' 'Can't we go home now? I'm awfully tired and hungry.' 'You're too long to go home yet,' said Kathleen sadly, and then Mabel remembered. She lay with closed eyes then she suddenly cried out: 'Oh! Cathy, I feel so funny -I'm getting shorter. I know lam-' Mabel was really getting shorter. Her feet were near - her long arms became shorter - her face was no longer half a yard long.


'You are all right. Oh, I am so glad!' cried Kathleen; 'and now we'll go home at once, dear.' 'Go home?' said Mabel, slowly sitting up and looking at Kathleen with her big dark eyes. 'Go home like that?' 'Like what?' Kathleen asked impatiently. 'Why, you,' was Mabel's odd answer. 'I'm all right,' said Kathleen. 'Come on.' 'Look at yourself - your hands - your dress - everything.' Kathleen looked at her hands. They were of marble whiteness. Her dress, too - her shoes, her stockings, even the ends of her hair. She was white as snow. 'What is it?' she asked, worried. 'Don't you see? You've not come right. You're a statue still.' 'I'm not - I'm alive - I'm talking to you.' 'I know you are, darling,' said Mabel kindly. 'That's be-cause it's moonlight.' 'But you can see I'm alive.' 'Of course I can. I've got the ring,' said Mabel, taking her marble hand. 'It's moonlight, and you're a statue, and you've just come alive with all the other statues. And when the moon goes down you'll just be a statue again. By the way, where's the dinosaur?' 'In his bath,' said Kathleen, 'and so are all the other stone beasts.' 'Well,' said Mabel, trying to look on the bright side of things, 'that's good news.'


CHAPTER TEN

'I've got an idea,' said Mabel, ' we may find out a lot about this magic place, if the other statues aren't too proud to talk to us.' 'They aren't,' said Kathleen; 'at least, Phoebus wasn't. He was very polite and nice.' 'Where is he?' Mabel asked. 'He was in the lake,' said Kathleen. 'Then let's go down there,' said Mabel. She jumped up, but the white Kathleen did not move. 'Hello, little sister!' said a voice behind them. They turned their heads, surprised. There in the moonlight stood Phoebus, smiling at them, very friendly. 'Oh, it's you!' said Kathleen. 'Yes,' said Phoebus cheerfully. 'Who is your friend, child?' 'This is Mabel,' said Kathleen. Mabel got up and bowed, hesitated, and held out a hand. 'I'm happy to meet you, little lady,' said Phoebus, taking her marble fingers. 'But I don't understand how you can see us, and why you do not fear.' Mabel showed him the ring. 'I see,' said Phoebus; 'but if you have that, why not be-come a statue and swim with us in the lake?' 'I can't swim,' said Mabel. 'Nor yet me,' said Kathleen. 'You can,' said Phoebus. 'All statues that come to life are good at all sports. And you, little lady, wish yourself a statue and join us.' 'You see,' said Mabel 'this ring ... you wish for things, and you never know how long they're going to last. It would be jolly to be a statue now, but not next morning-' 'You don't know the powers of your ring,' said Phoebus. 'Wish exactly, and the ring will exactly perform. Say this: "I wish to be a statue of living marble till the dawn".' 'Oh, yes, do, Mabel, it would be so jolly!' cried Kathleen. 'And could I swim then?'


'Swim, and laugh, and eat the food of the gods, and listen to a beautiful song.' 'O, Mabel, do!' said Kathleen. 'I am so hungry.' Still Mabel hesitated. Then she looked at Kathleen's legs and suddenly said: 'Very well, I will. But first I'll take off my shoes and stockings. Marble boots look simply awful.' She had pulled off shoes and stockings, then she said the wish, and there were two little live statues in the moonlight. Tall Phoebus took a hand of each. 'Come - run!' he cried. And they ran. They ran down the slope to the lake and jumped into the water. They swam easily and beautifully. And it was so lovely there. The moon was high in the sky. The willows, water-lilies, temples, terraces and bushes made the place very romantic. 'Now one more round,' said Phoebus kindly, 'and then we'll swim to the island.' The island was bigger than it seemed, and it was covered with trees and bushes. But when they passed the trees, they saw a wide lawn, and then marble steps going down to a round pool, where there were no water-lilies - only gold and silver fish. And the water and marble and grass was lighted with a clear, white, light, seven times stronger than the whitest moonlight, and in the waters of the pool seven moons reflected. The girls looked up at the sky, almost expecting to see seven moons there. But no, the old moon was alone there. 'There are seven moons,' said Mabel. 'Ofcourse,' said Phoebus; 'everything in our world is seventimes as much so as in yours. Now let's join the ladies.' On the other side of the pool there were twenty or thirty figures - all statues and all alive. Some were dipping their white feet among the gold and silver fish. Others were holding hands and dancing in a ring. 'I bring two guests,' said Phoebus, coming up to the group. The statues crowded round, stroking the girls' hair. 'Are the wreaths ready, Hebe?' the tallest lady asked. 'Make two more!' And almost directly Hebe came down the steps with rose- wreaths on her arms. There was one for each marble head. The children remembered how Mademoiselle had said that gods and goddesses always wore wreaths for meals. Hebe herself put the roses on the girls' heads and Aphrodite took them by the hands and said: 'Come, we must get the feast ready. Eros - Psyche - Hebe - all you young people can get the fruit.' 'I don't see any fruit,' said Kathleen. 'You must pick it like this,' said Psyche, lifting her marble arms to a willow branch. She showed


her hand to the children - it held a pear. 'I see,' said Mabel. 'You just -' She touched the willow branch - and they saw a big peach in her hand. 'Yes, just that,' laughed Psyche, who was a dear, as any one could see. After this they gathered fruit into a few silver baskets, while the elder statues were busy getting golden glasses and jugs and dishes from the branches of other trees and filling them with everything nice to eat and drink. Then everyone sat or lay down on the steps and the feast began. 'I wonder what the boys are doing,' said Mabel, taking the third peach. 'At this moment,' said Hermes, who had just returned from the flight, 'at this moment they are trying to find you near the home of the dinosaur. They're very worried about you.' Kathleen stood up. 'Thank you all very much,' she said. 'It was very kind of you to have us, and we've enjoyed ourselves very much, but I think it's time to go now.' 'If you are worried about your brothers,' said Phoebus, 'they can easily join you. Give me your ring for a moment.' He took it from Kathleen's half-reluctant hand, dipped it in the reflection of one of the seven moons, and gave it back. 'Now,' he said, 'say what Mabel wished for herself. Say-' 'I know,' and Kathleen made her wish. 'You were too quick,' said Phoebus. 'They are statues now, but they are not here. Hermes, bring them here and explain things as you come.' He dipped the ring again in one of the reflected moons and gave it back to Kathleen. 'Now it's clean and ready for the next magic.' It was clear that Hermes had 'explained everything' quite fully, because when marble Gerald and Jimmy arrived, they were quite at ease. They bowed to the goddesses and took their places beside them. When the feast was over, Hera turned her eyes on the children and said: 'How did the ring come into your hands?' 'I'll tell you,' said Mabel. 'Once upon a time there was a little girl Called Mabel,' she added and went on with story of the enchanted castle. The marble gods listened - almost as enchanted as the castle itself. 'And so,' ended Mabel ended, 'Kathleen wished for the boys and the Lord Hermes brought them and here we all are.' The statues began discussing the story. When the discussion was over, Mabel said: 'Now we want to know something.'


'What?' 'How you come alive, and how you know about the ring.' 'Tell them, Phoebus,' said Aphrodite. So Phoebus told. 'All statues,' he said, 'can come alive when the moon shines. But only on one night in all the year people can see them.' 'And when is that?' Gerald asked politely. 'At the festival of the harvest,' said Phoebes. 'And it can happen only in certain temples. One of these temples is in this great garden.' 'Then,' said Gerald, much interested, 'if we come up to that temple on that night, we could see you, even if we are not statues or don't have the ring?' 'Even so,' said Phoebus. 'More, we must answer any question asked by people.' 'And the night is when?' 'Ah!' said Phoebus, and laughed. 'Wouldn't you like to know!' Then the great marble Zeus stroked his long beard, and said: 'Enough of stories, Phoebus. Play to us.' 'But the ring,' said Mabel in a whisper, 'how you know all about the ring?' 'Ask me again before dawn, and I will tell you all I know of it,' the god whispered back. Then Phoebus began to play the lyre, and music filled the air. It was so sweet and beautiful that those who listened forgot time and space. And then, suddenly, the music stopped. Phoebus stood up, crying, 'The dawn! To your pedestals, o gods!' At once the whole crowd of beautiful marble people ran towards the trees. Then the children heard the splash. They heard, too, the breathing of a great beast, and knew that the dinosaur, too, was returning to his own place. Only Hermes had time to whisper to them with a laugh: 'In fourteen days from now, at the Temple of Strange Stones.' 'What's the secret of the ring?' asked Mabel. 'The ring is the heart of the magic,' said Hermes. 'Ask at the moonrise on the fourteenth day, and you shall know all.' And as he flew away a cold wind began to blow, a grey light grew and grew, and the marble slipped away from the children like a skin, and they were statues no more, but live children, standing


in long grass. There was no lawn, no marble steps, no pool with seven moons. 'What shall we do now?' said Mabel, shivering with cold. 'We can't swim now. And this is the island?' It was and they couldn't swim. 'Is there a boat?' Jimmy asked. 'No,' said Mabel, 'not on this side of the lake.' 'Can't anyone think of anything?' Gerald asked. 'The ring,' said Mabel. 'Of course we can get home with the help of the ring.' 'Where is the ring?' asked Gerald. 'You had it,' Mabel said to Kathleen. 'I know I had,' said Kathleen, 'but I gave it to Psyche to look at and - and she put it on her finger!' Everyone tried not to be angry with Kathleen. 'If we ever get off this island, can you find Psyche's statue and get it off again?' asked Gerald. 'No, I can't,' Mabel moaned. 'I don't know where the statue is. I've never seen it.' 'Now, look here,' said Gerald after a long silence. 'Let's make a tour of the island. Perhaps we could find a boat.' Quite sure that there wasn't and couldn't be any boat, the four children started to explore the island. The sun was already sending strong light straight at the children's eyes. This, with the fact that he was not looking where he was going, was the reason why Gerald stumbled, fell down some steps that opened suddenly in the ground. 'Oh, Gerald!' called Mabel down the steps; 'are you hurt?' 'No,' said Gerald, angrily, because he was hurt; 'it's steps, and there's a passage.' 'I knew there was a passage,' said Mabel; 'it goes under the water and comes out at the Temple of Flora.' 'Then we can get out that way,' said Gerald's voice. 'I think it goes past the place where the Ugly-Wugly found its good hotel.' 'It's no good,' said Jimmy weakly; 'you know well you can't get out of that Temple of Flora door, even if you get to it.' 'I don't know,' said Gerald, 'there can be a secret spring inside that door.'


So the four went down the stone steps that led to the underground and underwater passage. Then the passage took a turn, there were more steps, down, down, and then the children saw something that they had never thought possible. It was a great marble hall. Its roof was held up by two rows of round pillars, and every corner of the hall was filled with a warm, lovely light. 'How beautiful!' Kathleen whispered. 'I can't believe it's real,' said Mabel. This hall in which the children found themselves was the most beautiful place in the world. All round it were great arches. And through these arches they could see many things. Through one arch they saw an olive garden, and in it two lovers who held each other's hands, under an Italian moon; through another a small ship on a wild sea. A third showed a king on his throne; a fourth showed a really good hotel, with the respectable Ugly-Wugly sitting on the front doorsteps. There was a mother, bending over a child's bed. There was an artist looking at the picture he had painted, a general dying on a field of a battle he had won. And these things were not pictures, but true life. There were many other pictures, and all showed the best moments in people's lives. And the really good hotel had its place here too, because there are some souls that ask nothing more than 'a really good hotel'. They went slowly up the hall, and at the end of it the children saw where the light came from. It came from one statue that Mabel 'did not know where to find' - the statue of Psyche. They went on slowly, quite happy. And when they came close to Psyche they saw the ring on her hand. Gerald put his knee on the pedestal. 'I hope you don't mind,' he said, and drew the ring off very gently. Then they passed behind the white Psyche, and came to a dark passage that led from the hall. Kathleen said, 'Give me the ring. I know exactly what to say.' Gerald gave it reluctantly. 'I wish,' said Kathleen slowly, 'that we were safe in our own beds, undressed, and in our nightgowns, and asleep.' And the next moment they were all in their own beds. Mabel's own bed was, of course, at Yalding Towers, and to this day Mabel's aunt cannot understand how Mabel, who was staying the night in the town was in her bed in the morning.


CHAPTER ELEVEN

It was show-day at Yalding Castle, and the children decided to go and visit Mabel. There were more visitors than usual today because many people knew that Lord Yalding, who was in the castle, wanted to show the place in all its fantastic beauty to a rich American who wished to rent it. It certainly looked very splendid. Mabel's aunt had taken the covers off the furniture and put flowers in the rooms. All the afternoon the crowd in its smart holiday clothes, pink blouses, and light-coloured suits, and summer hats passed through and through the dark hall, the magnificent drawing-rooms and bedrooms and picture-galleries. The sounds of boots and high-heeled shoes, laughter and loud voices could be heard everywhere. 'I hate to see all these people in our garden' said Gerald, as the children watched the visitors from the window of the stone summer-house at the end of the terrace. 'I said that to that nice man this morning,' said Mabel, 'and he said it wasn't much to let them come once a week. 'Did he say anything else?' asked Jimmy. 'A lot of things,' said Mabel. 'I told him about our adventures.' 'Oh, no!' 'And he thinks I've got a real literary talent.' 'I say, I forgot to tell you, but I met Mademoiselle and she's coming to meet us and walk back with us,' said Gerald. 'It may be kind, but now we shall have to sit here and wait for her,' said Mabel, 'and I promised we'd meet that man. He's going to bring things in a basket and have a picnic-tea with us.' 'Where?' 'Beside the dinosaur.' 'When?' 'As soon as the gates shut. That's five.' 'We might take Mademoiselle to the picnic,' suggested Gerald. 'You can't tell what she will think about it,' said Kathleen. 'Well, I'll tell you what,' said Gerald, lazily turning on the stone bench. 'You all go there and


meet your man. A picnic's a picnic. And I'll wait for Mademoiselle.' Mabel said that this was jolly decent of Gerald. Jimmy added that Gerald liked to suck up to people. 'Little boys don't understand diplomacy,' said Gerald calmly; 'You never know when a grown-up may be useful. Besides, they like it. You must give them some little pleasures.' 'All right,' said Mabel, 'come on, Cathy, Jimmy.' It was a sunny summer day. When the children reached the dinosaur, they were very hot. The man looked very nice, the girls thought. He was wearing a grey summer suit, a pretty green tie and a straw hat. He welcomed the children warmly. And there were two promising baskets under the trees. He was a man of tact. 'You must be thirsty and hungry,' he said, 'We'll have tea, but first you can take off your shoes and stockings; there's a little canal right there.' It was very pleasant to dip feet in cool water after a hot walk. When they came back, they had tea with milk and cakes, and fruit. Jimmy was much impressed with it and he suddenly said: 'Your feast's as good as the feast of the gods, almost.' 'What do you mean?' asked the host; and Jimmy told him the whole story of that wonderful night when the statues came alive, and they had a feast with them. The man smiled: 'Did you get all this out of a book?' 'No,' said Jimmy, 'it happened; everything I've told you did happen, and so did the things Mabel told you.' The man looked a little uncomfortable. 'All right,' he said. And there was a short silence. 'Look here,' said Jimmy. 'Do you believe me or not?' 'Don't be silly, Jimmy!' Kathleen whispered. 'I think you tell adventures very well,' said the man calmly. 'Very well,' said Jimmy, sitting up, 'you don't believe me. 'Cathy, give me the ring.' 'Oh, no!' said the girls together. They did not want to give the ring to Jimmy, but they couldn't stop him. It was his hour. 'Now,' said Jimmy, 'this is the ring Mabel told you about. I say it is a wishing-ring. And if you put it on your finger and wish, everything you wish will happen.' 'Don't wish for anything silly,' said Kathleen. 'Wish for something you really want.' 'I'll wish for the only thing I really want,' said the man. 'I wish my friend were here.'


The three who knew the power of the ring looked round to see the man's friend, but they only saw Mademoiselle and Gerald. Mademoiselle was wearing a white dress, looking quite nice and like a picture, and Gerald was hot and polite. 'Good afternoon,' said Gerald. 'I persuaded Mademoiselle' That sentence was never finished, because the man and the French teacher were looking at each other like stuck pigs', as Jimmy said later. 'Is she your friend?' Jimmy asked. 'Oh yes,' said the man. 'You are my friend, are you not?' 'But yes,' Mademoiselle said kindly. 'I am your friend.' 'There! you see,' said Jimmy, 'the ring does do what I said.' 'You can say it's the ring. For me it's the happiest coincidence,' said the man. 'Jimmy, give your brother some tea. Mademoiselle, come and walk in the woods. I would like to talk to you.' 'Yes, we must speak to each other,' said Mademoiselle, 'I haven't seen Lord Yalding for a long time!' 'So he was Lord Yalding all the time,' said Jimmy, as the white dress and the grey suit disappeared in the wood. 'And she is his friend'. 'His friend!' said Mabel with strong scorn; 'don't you see she's his lover? She's the lady that had gone into a convent, and he couldn't find her. And now the ring's made them happy.' Mabel was right about Mademoiselle. Her guardian was against her marriage to a poor lord and had put her in a con-vent. Then he disappeared in South America with all her money, and Mademoiselle had to work. She became a teacher and came to that school because it was near Lord Yalding's home. Next morning Mademoiselle looked a different person. Her cheeks were pink, her lips were red, and her eyes were larger and brighter. Immediately after breakfast Lord Yalding invited the whole party to Yalding Towers. The children decided to explore the castle. Lord Yalding gave his permission, and together with Mademoiselle he went out for a walk in the garden. Mabel showed the others all the secret doors and passages and stairs that she had discovered. When they were coming out of a little secret room they suddenly met an odd little man who had a beard like a goat. 'This part of the castle is private,' said Mabel and shut the door behind her. 'I know that,' said the stranger, 'but I have the permission of the Lord Yalding to see the house.' 'Oh!' said Mabel. 'I'm sorry. We didn't know.' The gentleman was thin and well-dressed; he had small, quick eyes and a brown face.


'You are playing some game? 'No, sir,' said Gerald, 'only exploring.' 'May I join your expedition?' asked the gentleman, smiling. The children looked at each other. 'We can't take you because we don't know what you want to find here,' said Jimmy. 'I understand your position,' said the gentleman. 'I have come to this country because I want to rent a nice house. My name is Jefferson D. Conway.' 'Oh!' said Mabel; 'then you're the American millionaire.' 'Not yet, young lady,' said Mr Jefferson D. Conway. 'Now let's start our tour.' Mabel led the millionaire through the castle. He seemed pleased, but at the same time disappointed too. 'It is a fine castle,' he said at last when they returned to the state bedroom; 'but isn't there a secret passage or a ghost?' 'There are,' said Mabel, 'if you were sleep in this room, I expect-you'll see the ghost,' said Mabel. 'There is a ghost here then?' he said with enthusiasm. 'Yes,' Mabel answered, 'old Sir Rupert, who lost his head long ago, walks at night here, with his head under his arm.' 'Well,' said the American with a smile, 'I'll ask the Lord Yalding to let me pass a night in his state bedroom. And if I hear a ghost's footsteps, I'll take the place.' 'I am glad!' said Kathleen. 'You are very certain of your ghost,' said the American suspiciously. 'Let me tell you, young gentlemen, that I carry a gun, and when I see a ghost, I shoot'. And he pulled a pistol out of his pocket. 'Thank you for all your kindness.' 'If the American rents the castle, he'll pay Lord Yalding a good rent, and then he could marry the French teacher,' said Mabel. 'We must make a ghost for him.' Later that evening Lord Yalding suddenly appeared at school again and said: 'Mr Jefferson Conway wants you boys to spend the night with him in the state chamber. You don't mind, do you? He thinks you've got some idea of playing ghost-tricks on him.' It was impossible to refuse, though the boys were reluctant to see Sir Rupert's ghost. As soon as Mabel learned from her aunt that Mr Jefferson D. Conway would sleep at the castle that night, she found Lord Yalding and got the ring back. Then she said a wish, 'that Sir Rupert and his head may appear tonight in the state bedroom.'


Gerald and Jimmy were awakened by a pistol shot. In the dark state bedroom lighted by six tall candles they saw the American with a pistol in his hand; and at the door a figure - and no head! The head, sure enough, was there; but it was under the right arm. The face looking from under the arm was pleasantly smiling. Both boys screamed. The American shot again. The bullet passed through Sir Rupert, who didn't notice it. Then, suddenly, it was morning. The American was gone. 'Perhaps you'll believe in the ring now,' said Jimmy to Lord Yalding, whom he met later on in the picture-gallery; 'it's all our doing that Mr Jefferson saw the ghost. He told us he'd take the house if he saw a ghost, so of course he did see one.' 'Oh, you did, did you?' said Lord Yalding in rather an odd voice. 'Perhaps you'll be interested to learn, Mr Jefferson D. Conway was so pleased with your ghost that he got me out of bed at six o'clock this morning to talk about it.' 'Oh!' said Jimmy. 'What did he say?' 'He said, as far as I can remember,' said Lord Yalding, in the same strange voice - 'he said: "My lord, I like your castle and the park, but I don't like your ancestors. They walk at night with their heads under their arms. I don't mind a ghost that sighs. But a ghost that stands with its head under his arm smiling when bullets go through it - no! If this is a British family ghost, excuse me!" And he went off by the early train.' 'I am sorry, said Jimmy remarked, 'we thought it would be just what you wanted. And perhaps someone else will take the house.' 'I don't know anyone else rich enough,' said Lord Yalding. 'I say -' Jimmy looked up at Lord Yalding with a new idea. 'If you need money, why don't you sell your jewels?' 'I haven't any jewels,' said Lord Yalding and began to walk away. 'I mean the ones in the panelled room with the stars in the ceiling,' Jimmy insisted, following him. 'There aren't any,' said Lord Yalding shortly; 'and I don't want to hear any of this nonsense.' 'It's not nonsense,' said Mabel, appearing together with Mademoiselle. 'You just come and see.' 'Let us see what they want to show us,' said Mademoiselle. So they went, Mabel and Jimmy leading, while Made-moiselle and Lord Yalding followed, hand in hand.


CHAPTER TWELVE

The procession entered the little panelled room. There's a secret spring here somewhere,' said Mabel, trying to find it. 'Where?' said Lord Yalding. 'Here,' said Mabel impatiently, 'only I can't find it.' And she couldn't. Mabel's careful fingers felt the whole panelling. The spring was simply not there. 'You see!' said Lord Yalding severely. 'I've had enough of this silly business. Give me the ring; it's mine, as you found it somewhere here and don't say another word about all this rubbish of magic and enchantment.' 'Gerald's got the ring,' said Mabel miserably. 'Then go and find him,' said Lord Yalding - 'both of you.' Soon the four children came back together. 'They don't believe about the jewels,' said Mabel, suddenly in tears, 'and I can't find the spring. It was here, and -' Her fingers felt it as she spoke; and as she stopped speaking the panels opened, and everyone saw the shelves full of jewels. 'My God!' said Lord Yalding and Mademoiselle. 'But why now' asked Mabel. 'Why not before?' 'I think it's magic,' said Gerald. 'There's no real spring here, and it couldn't act because the ring wasn't here. Phoebus told us the ring was the heart of all the magic.' Gerald gave the ring to Lord Yalding. Soon the children and Mademoiselle returned to school. In the evening and at breakfast Mademoiselle was happy and kind. Then Lord Yalding came to see her. The meeting took place in the drawing-room. Soon Lord Yalding went out of the drawingroom leaving the door open, and Gerald, going up to his room for a pencil, heard the sobs. Mademoiselle was quite certainly crying. 'They're beginning to quarrel already' he said to himself. He went into the drawing-room, shutting the door behind him. 'It is all over,' Mademoiselle was saying, 'he will not marry me!' Gerald was certain that the matter was somehow the fault of that ring. And in this Gerald was right. As you remember Gerald had very pretty ways with grown-ups when he wanted. So he


persuaded her to tell him what had happened. 'The story, as told by Mademoiselle, was certainly an unusual one. Lord Yalding, last night after dinner, had walked in the park -' 'I know,' said Gerald; 'and he had the ring on. And he saw -' 'He saw the monuments become alive,' sobbed Mademoiselle; 'He remembered your story and wished himself a statue. Then he swam in the lake and had a feast with gods on an island. At dawn he became a real man again. He says that it's not a dream; he thinks that he's mad. And a mad man must not marry. There is no hope.' 'There,' said Gerald. 'He's not mad, and it's not a dream. It's magic. Did he talk to the gods?' 'This is the most mad of all his ideas. He says that the gods asked him to come to some temple tomorrow when the moon rises.' 'Right,' cried Gerald, 'Dear nice, kind, pretty Made-moiselle, stop crying. Tomorrow he will go to that temple. We will go. He'll see that he isn't mad, and you'll understand all about everything.' Mademoiselle half sobbed, half smiled and said: 'Is it some of your tricks, like the ghost?' 'I can't explain,' said Gerald, 'but everything is going to be exactly what you wish.' 'I believe you,' said Mademoiselle. And now it is near moonrise. The French teacher and the four children are going over the grass. They go across the lawn and through the wood and come at last to a ring of big stones. It is the Temple of Strange Stones. In the middle of the circle there is a great flat stone. Something dark moves in the circle. Mademoiselle goes to it and takes its arm. It is Lord Yalding, and he is telling her to go. 'Never!' she cries. 'If you are mad, I am mad too, because I believe the story these children tell. And I am here to be with you.' The children, holding hands near the flat stone, listen, trying not to listen. 'Are you not afraid?' Lord Yalding is saying. Gerald goes to them to say: 'You can't be afraid if you are wearing the ring. And I'm sorry, but we can hear every word you say.' She laughs again. 'It doesn't matter,' she says, 'you already know that we love each other.' Then Lord Yalding puts the ring on her finger, and they stand together. Then the first moonbeam touches the far end of the central stone, now it gets nearer and nearer to the middle of it, now at last it touches the very heart and centre of that great stone. And a fountain of light comes out of it. Everything changes. There are no more secrets. There is no time or space. It is a moment and it is eternity. At that moment six people saw many moving shapes. The great beasts came first, strange forms


that were when the world was new - gigantic dinosaurs, mammoths, strange birds. Then, not from the garden but from very far away, came the stone gods of Egypt with the heads of animals and birds, all in stone, and all alive; figures of angels with wings, sphinxes, idols from Southern islands; and, last of all, the beautiful marble shapes of the gods and goddesses whom they had seen on the lake-island. The children had thought to ask many questions, but now no one spoke a word, because they were in the circle of the real magic where all things are understood without speech. All the stone creatures gathered round the stone. Then all the faces turned upward and cried one word: 'The light!' And the sound of their voice was like the sound of a great wave. And then the light disappeared, and with it disappeared all the stone figures. 'I want to go to the cave on the island,' said the French girl. Very quietly they went down to the boat-house, crossed the lake in a boat and came to the island. Then they found the steps. They went down into the Hall of Psyche. It was the Hall of Granted Wishes. 'The ring' said Lord Yalding. 'The ring,' said his lover, 'is the magic ring given long ago to people, and it is what you say it is. A lady of my house gave it to your ancestor and asked him to build her a garden and a house like her own palace and garden in her own land. This place is built partly by his love and partly by that magic. She never lived to see it; that was the price of the magic.' 'Only one wish is left now,' her voice went on. 'Shall I wish?' 'Yes - wish,' they said, all of them. 'I wish, then,' said Lord Yalding's lover, 'that all the magic this ring has done may be undone, and that the ring itself may be just a symbol of our love.' As soon as she said these words the enchanted light and the windows of granted wishes disappeared. And where Psyche's statue had been was a stone. 'It is her grave,' the girl said. Next day no one could remember anything at all exactly. But many things were changed. When Mademoiselle woke in her own bed in the morning she had in her hand not the magic ring but the plain gold ring (later it was used in the wedding ceremony). More than half the jewels in the panelled room were gone, and those that remained lay just on the shelves. There was no passage at the back of the Temple of Flora. Quite a lot of the secret passages and hidden rooms had disappeared. And there were fewer statues in the garden. However, the jewels that were left were quite enough to pay for everything. All the ring-magic was undone so suddenly that it was difficult to believe that any magic had ever happened. But how then could you explain the paragraph, which appeared in the evening papers


the day after the magic of the moon-rising? 'MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF A WELL- KNOWN BUSINESSMAN' 'Mr U. W. Ugli,' the papers said, 'had remained late, working at his office. When in the morning the office door was opened, the police found the clothes of this gentleman on the floor, together with an umbrella, a walking stick and a golf club. His body was not found.'

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